There is no use ignoring what is clearly the biggest sports story in at least a decade, and that is the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the NBA had already been a bit more active in getting out ahead of things even with both the visiting Sharks and the Blue Jackets declaring their intent to play in front of empty buildings, the NHL still is insisting to this very moment that games will not be postponed or cancelled even as news of the NBA bringing things to a halt due to the infection in the Jazz locker room broke during the game. It feels like this might be the last game for the forseeable future, as shit is becoming real at a break neck pace. Both teams played like they were distracted for periods, and while the Hawks may have sold every ticket, it was sparse crowd that was even visible from TV. If nothing else, the Hawks braintrust will use the outbreak as a crutch to finally announce the sellout streak is over, and then brag that it took an act of god (or Satan) to halt them. With the win tonight the Hawks still remain mathematically alive, but then again, aren’t we all at this point?
RECORDS: Hawks 4-6-3 Sharks 4-10-1
PUCK DROP: 9pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
THE BUBBLE BURST: Just follow @ItWasThreeZero, but it’s a little blue
I bet you didn’t think that a month into the season, we’d be sitting here with the Hawks with more points than the Sharks. And yet, that’s where we are. It has all gone pear-shaped on the Teal, while this is pretty much what the Hawks are. Is this what the Sharks are? They’d better hope not, because they have a lot of money committed to not be.
There isn’t one clear reason that the Sharks are currently using circles of paper. They tried to solve their goaltending issues from last year, which were some of the worst on recent record, by simply hoping that Martin Jones would become what he had been the previous three years through simply kindness from the gods. That has not happened, as he and Aaron Dell have been just about as bad as they were last year. But this time around, that’s not the only problem.
While the Sharks are one of the better teams in the league in the amount of attempts they give up, they’re one of the worst in the types of chances they give up. Quite frankly, their defense is Cottonnelle-esque. You might not be down in their end all that much but when you are you can get to the prime areas easily and fire away.
On top of that, the Sharks just aren’t generating nearly as much as they were, both in terms of attempts and chances. Erik Karlsson isn’t the engine he was, either through age or injury or still trying to find him the right partner. And the Sharks’ depth has eroded. It wasn’t just the departure of Pavelski. Valuable seat-fillers like Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist also made for the exits, and the kids that have come into replace them just haven’t lived up yet. They’ve needed more from the likes of Marcus Sorensen and Melker Karlsson and they haven’t got it.
That doesn’t mean their vets are off the hook. Logan Couture has been woeful, Joe Thornton can only do so much, and their half-court shot of bringing Patrick Marleau back has only revealed that he might not have a pulse. If Evander Kane and Kevin LeBanc weren’t scoring, they’d probably already be done. On the back end, they’ve missed Justin Braun, which is probably akin to missing Connor Murphy. Good player, adds to your team, shouldn’t pivot around him. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic is doing a fine Seabrook impression these days and is on the third-pairing.
What they can do about it is questionable. They obviously need a goalie if they’re going to make anything of this season, but by the time they can identify one they can have they might already be toast. They’re all the way capped out, so how they’d cram in a veteran goalie and/or a forward or two is a mystery. They’d have to get Martin Jones off the roster as a starter, but the line of teams willing to pick up a goalie who now resides in a bucket and has to be put there via damp sponge isn’t all that long. They don’t have much else to shift.
This is a team built for now, and the now is passing them by. Look for a big move, even beyond firing coach Pete DeBoer, if this continues much longer.
To the Hawks. They were mostly ok against the Ducks, so you can probably look for the same lineup aside from Crawford swapping in for Lehner, The former had his first really good game against the Kings, and even still that saw him give up four goals. The Hawks will need to get both goalies going at top speed if they’re going to make a run, or just turn to Lehner full-time which is another headache they don’t need.
The Sharks are one of the few teams that can’t leave severe windburn on the Hawks. They used to be able to dominate them by just having the puck all the time, but they aren’t doing that either right now. Both teams let you get wherever you want in their defensive zone, so this one will have chances and likely goals. The only known threat from the Sharks right now is the Hertl-Kane axis, so if Jeremy Colliton wants to get cute he can keep changing on the fly to get Kampf out there against them. But that might be a bit adventurous for the first week in November.
It might not have been pretty, but if the Hawks can get this one that’s five points on this trip which is one below the max. And that would be good, even if a total mirage given the method. They need anything they can build on right now. And right now, the Sharks are a very fragile team that you can fill with head-goblins early in the game. Then again, the Sharks probably think the Hawks are the slump-buster they need. Catch the fever.
Evander Kane – As always. But it’s a conspiracy against him, don’t ya know?
Erik Karlsson’s Effect On The Media – Should you be completely bereft of something to do, watch a Sharks game through the opposing broadcast. Because it won’t be much more than 5-10 minutes before the color analyst or studio one gets in a shot at Karlsson’s defensive play or paycheck or both. The grumpy old men or wannabe grumpy old men that comprise hockey analysis still can’t seem to wrap their minds around that Karlsson has always been a different type, and overall still one of the best in the league because he keeps his team out of its own end. Yeah, he might not play a 2-on-1 well, but he also is almost never in one because of his skills. But anyone who makes a big check and isn’t a good ol’ Canadian boy is the enemy. If they really need fodder, they only need to look to…
Brent Burns: Maybe the most overrated player in the league. He racks up points, and then when he plays any team with a plan and skill he gets rolled over. The definition of a flat-track bully who avoids criticism because he’s Canadian and at least hints at having a personality. Which up there only means to not have all your teeth. Seriously, walking around like that makes you teflon to the hockey media.
Slightly tweaked feature this year. Instead of the Douchebag Du Jour, we’ll list a couple doofuses on the opponent that night.
Evander Kane – Always the king, one of the bigger scumbags in the league, and now comes equipped with a victim complex that somehow justifies pushing and slashing referees. There isn’t a manhole deep enough for him to fall into.
Brent Burns – Looks like a jackass, mostly plays like a jackass, but no one seems to notice until he gets his hairy ass scorched in the playoffs by any team that bothers to notice he can’t play defense. This man has a Norris, people.
Pete DeBoer – Yet another coach who has passed over young players to play genuine turds like Michael Haley last season. It wasn’t the only season that he was fascinated by Haley or some other drooler who needed help tying his skates. Holding the Sharks back.
It’s not often a team loses its captain and its leading goal-scorer and is still considered among the conference favorites. But such is life in the West where no one has really jumped forward aside from the Colorado Avalanche. The San Jose Sharks return Erik Karlsson, which if he can remain upright for even 60 games and more importantly the playoffs, is about half the battle in itself. While Joe Pavelski may be gone, they still return a host of nifty forwards who can fill the net on at least three lines. Brent Burns might be overrated by a factor of 12, and losing Justin Braun may turn out to be nearly as big as Pavelski. Still, this team never felt like it clicked for very long last year and ended up with 101 points and in the conference final (WHERE THEY FAILED US ALL MISERABLY AND SHALL NEVER BE FORGIVEN). Can they do it again?
46-27-9 101 points (2nd in Pacific, lost in conference final)
3.52 GF/G (2nd) 3.15 GA/G (21st) +31 GD
54.9 CF% (1st) 54.3 xGF% (4th)
23.6 PP% (6th) 80.8 PK% (15th)
Goalies: The only reason the Sharks didn’t end up with 110 or more points last season was their goaltending. Martin Jones was simply awful, Aaron Dell wasn’t any better, and the Sharks had to overcome it most nights. And most nights they did. Doug Wilson has bet that Martin Jones simply can’t be that bad again. And with good reason.
In the three seasons as Sharks starter before that, Jones never had a SV% below .912. That’s the thing with the Sharks, they don’t need Carey Price back there. They don’t need a Vezina finalist. They just need league average. Jones couldn’t even manage that in the playoffs and they still got to the conference final. Jone will turn 30 during the season, so it’s hard to imagine last season was the begin of age-related decline. It feels like a very weird and ugly outlier, and the Sharks need to hope so. Dell isn’t going to ride in like Mighty Mouse if Jones is coughing up his esophagus again, which would mean Wilson would either have to look for answer at the deadline or close his eyes, clinch a towel between his teeth, and hope his team can plow ahead dragging Jones along.
The Sharks always have the puck as well, giving up the least amount of attempts last season and in the top half in expected goals against. The job is just about as easy as it can be for a goalie. And they merely need to pass on a pass/fail course. Do that, and the Sharks can take this division.
Defense: That doesn’t mean they’re without questions. The first is will Erik Karlsson ever finish a season healthy? His groin having all the gremlins doomed them in the playoffs (NEVER FORGIVEN), and he missed large chunks of the season. He hasn’t managed a full slate of games in four seasons. They’re nowhere without him, so expect him to get a regular slate of games off to try and preserve him for April and May. When he’s on the ice he still dominates, as his metrics were seven or eight points ahead of the Sharks as a whole, who again, were one of the best possession teams in the league. He’s still otherworldly when on song.
After that though…Mar-Edouard Vlasic loses his main defensive running buddy in Braun and there isn’t an obvious candidate to take the hard shifts with him or to cover for whichever of Burns or Karlsson Pickels doesn’t. Brendon Dillon is a post. Tim Heed and Dalton Prout are seat-fillers at best. Jacob Middleton is a kid that will get a look, but coach Peter DeBoer famously hates any young d-man. One outside candidate is rookie Mario Ferraro, but he’ll also have DeBoer to overcome.
Burns was completely exposed as a runway in the playoffs last year, and there’s no reason that won’t be true this year. He’ll pile up a ton of points again, which will be close to empty calories. This unit could use some buffeting at the deadline too, because Burns can’t really be trusted with anything than a third-pairing yahoo deep in the playoffs.
Forwards: Losing Pavelski is a ballsy call. This is still a team that features Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Evander Kane. It shouldn’t hurt for goals, it just might not have a wealth of them as it did before. Kevin Lebanc stepping up into a top-six role would help the cause, and maybe they think he’s ready for that. Joe Thornton is back for another go-around, and while he can still make a play here and there his days of being a genuine top-two center on a team are gone. Luckily, Couture and Hertl don’t require him to do that. There are enough foot soldiers to fill out the bottom six without standing out. But the Sharks always seemingly round out their bottom six with pieces from their system.
Prediction: It doesn’t feel like the doomsday machine they could have been last year but fell short of. The loss of Pavelski and Braun will be somewhat canceled out if Martin Jones can escape from whatever pod person took over his body last year, but not entirely. They look short a top four d-man and maybe one forward.
But there’s more than enough here to win the division and conference. The Flames haven’t gotten away from them, and whether the Knights want to admit it or not they have the same questions in net and on their blue line. Another 105-110 points seem on offer if Karlsson can manage 60-65 games or more. The bet is that Couture and Hertl at center can take some wingers with them even if they’re not Pavelski. Perhaps. But nothing the Sharks do will be judged until they get into April again. They could be in any kind of shape by then.
You had one job to do.
Let it be known forth that the San Jose Sharks are the only Bay Area organization that can only wield its location and power to fuck itself. Whereas everyone else stationed there slowly (or not) takes over the world and is influencing their various spheres and others, the only sphere the Sharks can influence is the inside of their thigh with a warm, yellow, and constant stream. And now it’s well and truly over for them. This generation of this team, one that promised so much, is done. Charred. Finished. Fertig. Verfallen. Verlumpt. Verblunget. Verkackt. Whatever hope they might have had for beyond went out the window with Joe Pavelski’s sense of direction.
This is probably their most spectacular crash yet. They got the best defenseman on the planet for nothing. A song. They added him to a team that already had three scoring lines, one of the best d-men around (Vlasic, not Burns). And it seemed that despite their best efforts, it would work. They had a goalie doing the lindy hop in net all season. Didn’t really matter. Their coach was insistent on continually lighting a fuse of playing Brenden Dillon more than Joakim Ryan. The Sharks kept putting it out. Joe Thornton could barely move. Fine. Hertl moves to center and no one cares. Perhaps they picked the lock.
They had miracles on their side. They trashed everyone’s favorite overhyped darling in the first round. They benefitted from Gabriel LaxativeLog’s lazy ass in the second. They had perhaps the only team that’s a bigger collection of failures and stomach-acid-pukes than them waiting. They got more bounces. They had an entire city on the verge of meltdown (to be fair, that’s St. Louis’s natural state, thanks to the dangerous levels of methane that surrounds the place emitted from every resident every four minutes).
And now it’s all ash. Peter DeBoer proved that any idiot can get a team to a Final, even twice. Hell, he just got beat by one. How did icing Michael Haley in the playoffs instead of…oh I don’t know, any kindergartner with two legs work out? Speaking of which, Dillon spent most of the playoffs looking like said kindergartner sprinting for the Sesame Street phone at playtime, and yet he played more than Ryan. Hey, did getting Karlsson back for those five games in February feel worth it? You were given the best toy in the whole league and you broke it. Fine work all around there.
This was a team that had a whole division basically fall in front of it, and still let Calgary’s line and a half plus a d-man waltz by it for the title. It was the first to contain two Norris winners in a decade, and then Brent Burns spent a month proving why his Norris should be melted down and poured over his head, if only to rid us of his hideous beard. If Burns came from Omsk instead of Canada Don Cherry would have beaten him with a 2×4 by now and they would have made that the Canadian flag.
Much like the Raiders, the Sharks probably need to be thrown out of the Bay Area now. Everyone else gets it. The Warriors are the best team in their league’s history. The Giants, inexplicably, created a dynasty out of hilljacks and sex fiends. Though the A’s trophy cabinet may be empty, they still stand for all that is progressive and cool about their sport despite drawing only parole board hearings to their games and playing in a literal sewer. The Raiders didn’t do shit, and have been sent off to where rejects go…off the strip in Vegas. Sadly, that’s not an option for the Sharks. Maybe Reno would work better.
They’ve left us with this curse of a Final. Just like they left us with Vancouver and Boston once upon a time. The Sharks have launched a bunch of plagues upon the hockey world through their incompetence. The Hawks dynasty started by running them over. The Canucks in ’11. We could have been rid of the Ducks sooner if the Sharks didn’t blow a #1 seed by trying to out-belch them. The narrative that Sidney Crosby would never get it done again was solved by a week with the Sharks. A Kings affirmation could have easily been snuffed out at the first possible hurdle. The Sharks turned it down four times.
The Sharks are everything bad about Silicon Valley, leaving the rest of society to clean up their mess without any of the benefits. They are the bubble-burst without the bubble. Somehow, they still leave the sticky residue all around without ever having put anything together. And “Sharks” is one syllable, you illiterate fucks.
Heretofore, the Sharks will be symbolized by both Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, their two greatest ever players who will never win a Cup, even when they flee trying to do so. You know what your problem is, Toronto? You’ve got San Jose running through you. They will soon be joined by Joe Pavelski, who definitely should have been playing and will definitely be able to identify his family in five years, and Logan Couture. Maybe Brent Burns, assuming he’s not facing the wrong way the rest of his life, which he most certainly will be.
It’s best if you just break it all up now. The happiest you will be is everyone forgets you for a few years while Hertl and Meier thrash about trying to constitute a first line. Thornton retires, Pavelski and Karlsson walk, maybe try and cash in on Vlasic and save him from the fate that awaits him. It’s not in you, Sharks. That much is clear. Like everyone else out there, you thought you had big ideas and could change things. But all you did was annoy the piss out of people and give way to something much worse. Oblivion is your only salvation.
Thanks for nothing, fucksticks. Now we have to deal with this.
Before the playoffs, SinBin.Vegas (a Knights blog I’ll check out when I need to update myself on said team) wrote a post about how Brent Burns was actually an advantage for them in their series against the Sharks. I thought it was yet another product of unearned arrogance for a team and fanbase that hadn’t even been in existence for two full seasons yet, even though I’ve never really rated Burns defensively either. I figured he could out-produce and out-push whatever mistakes he makes in his own end, as he pretty much does during the regular season.
This has been Burns in the playoffs:
Last night was especially gruesome if you’re a Sharks fan, and truly rewarding if you’re into absurdist theater. Let’s start with Colin Wilson’s goal that pretty much ended Game 4 as a contest:
When Rantanen loses the puck into the slot, you’d assume that Burns would just slap it away on his backhand or smoothly let it roll to his forehand and then skate it out. Instead he attempts…I don’t even know…a Cruyff turn? The result is him banging it off his skates and leaving it right there for Rantanen to get a second bite at it, which left him the space for that incredible pass to Wilson.
That wasn’t Burns’s only hiccup that turned into an aneurysm, in even that period. On Carl Soderberg’s mystifying miss in the 3rd, Burns follows Matt Nieto into the corner with all the passion of getting his license renewed, and then just kind of skates around back up to the circle like a little league outfielder, while Soderberg is just standing at the side of the net waiting to y’know, score. There were at least two or three other instances in just the 3rd period last night where Burns got scorched, or was just loitering around begging for change I assume like North Shore kids in front of The Alley (sky point), or actively running away from where he was supposed to be.
The highlight had to be Sam Girard coming down the middle on a 3-on-2, and Burns on the right side of the two turning his back on Girard to cover the stationary winger along the boards, who somehow was calculated by Burns with whatever broken slide-rule covered in mustard is in his head to be the bigger threat. Girard faked that pass by like, kind of looking over there and suddenly Burns gave him a runway to the net that O’Hare would pay millions for. It was like when you fake throwing the tennis ball for your dog and they go charging off for five steps and then can’t figure out what they’re doing.
And it’s been like this all playoffs long. All the shit that Erik Karlsson used to get yelled at by red angry men on TSN in the past Burns was actively doing last night and the past three weeks. But because he’s a good Canadian boy it’s rare that this ever gets pointed out. This motherfucker has a Norris! I hate to say Drew Doughty was right, but my lord.
It’s like watching a child lost in the supermarket. You feel sorry for him but at the same time you can’t wait to see how he tries to solve this puzzle. And Burns is just charging through the produce shelves hoping to just run into mom’s knees. You’d think it’s impossible to get this lost in a contained space but Burns seems to find space where there didn’t look to be any space or creates more of it, and all in the wrong way.
It’s honestly been the most fascinating watch in the playoffs. Where will Burns charge off to next? Is he going to be at the circles when the puck is behind the net? Vice versa? Is he going to choose to cover the beer vendor? Will he actually light his beard on fire? You can’t rule any of it out!
It’s just about as freeing an experience in the playoffs. Anything could happen. There is no impossibility when Burns is on the ice. I bet you thought there would never be a rip in the space-time continuum. Buddy, let me tell ya, it could happen. His brains could literally spill out of his ear (which I assume would result in another major to Cody Eakin). He might just leap against the glass like Ron Obvious trying to leap the English Channel. It’s honestly a bucket of rainbows.
Erik Gustafsson must watch Burns and do a Joker impression. “And I thought my jokes were bad.”
Game 1 in San Jose – Tonight, 9pm
Game 2 in San Jose – Sunday, 6:30
Game 3 in Denver – Tuesday, 9pm
Game 4 in Denver – Thursday, 9pm
This is where the Sharks are supposed to be, just not how they’re supposed to be here. It took a miracle, they somehow overcame Martin Jones, the NHL’s favorite pet, and various injuries. Do they have anything left? The Avs are here because they have the player who might be playing the best hockey in the world right now, and that their goalie was also as good as anyone. The Sharks benefitted from Marc-Andre Fleury rediscovering his 2010-2013 form. They won’t get such benefits here. Can they overcome a good goalie with less than their full compliment of scorers?
Goalies: While MacKinnon stole all the headlines, along with Mikko Rantanen, Phillip Grubauer was becoming what the Avs thought they were getting when they traded for him in the summer. He put up a .939 against the Flames, who don’t lack for snipers. He only had to work hard a couple times, but giving up 10 goals in five games is a football in the groin. Grubauer has been galactic since February 1st, and it should probably be a given at this point that he’s going to be good.
What to make of Martin Jones. Swinging wildly between really good and slapstick comedy with almost no in-between against Vegas, Jones looked to have tossed away all that the Sharks are with that poor goal from Pacioretty in the 3rd period of Game 7. The Knights’ bed-wetting saw that wasn’t the case, but it wasn’t the stirring performance the Sharks would hope they can build on. He was excellent in Games 5 and 6 when he had to be, but the Sharks can’t have any idea what they’re getting. And they’ll be seeing MacK and Rantanen, who are better scorers than anything the Knights cough up, despite what they tell you.
Defense: The Avs got a boost from the addition of Cale Makar, but this is still a teenager playing his fourth game ever. They were much better than you would have guessed against the Flames, who kept falling apart in front of them. Tyson Barrie was everywhere, and they didn’t pay for having Zadorov and Nemeth on the team. I still won’t buy Ian Cole or Erik Johnson, or Zadorov and Nemeth, but they’re here. There’s more depth they have to deal with from San Jose than Calgary, and if anyone is going to expose them, it’s the Sharks.
The Sharks would have a bigger advantage if Erik Karlsson‘s groin didn’t sound like trying to pull the rack out of an oven that’s never been cleaned right now. He’s moving maybe at 60% of his usual grace, and that’s a problem. Still, it was enough to barely outlast the speed of the Knights, and the Avs aren’t any faster. Brent Burns is a disaster waiting to happen at any moment, But that’s why you have Marc-Edouard Vlasic around. Peter DeBoer finally figured out that Brenden Dillon blows, and was actually playing Joakim Ryan in OT of Game 7. That should continue, but won’t because DeBoer has his idiotic tendencies. Again, they got through the Knights, and here they really only have one line to deal with.
Forwards: This is easy. The Avs have one line, and probably the best line left in the West, and it was more than enough to kick the Flames’ dick into the dirt. Nathan MacKinnon isn’t going to be stopped, and he’ll bring Rantanen and ThreeYaksAndADog with him. But beyond that, you can have it. Yes, they were enough against the Flames, but Colin Wilson and J.T. Compher and Matt Nieto will return to their own level. There’s a collection of nice players under the top line, but no game-breakers here. The top line just might be enough, though.
The Sharks would have a big advantage here if Joe Pavelski was going to play, and we have no idea if he will. Without him, Logan Couture lacks wingers. Sure, there’s still Hertl, Kane, Thornton, Meier, and Nyquist and a few competent bottom-sixers. They’re still deeper than the Avs without Pavelski, but that gap is monumental with him. I think it’s doubtful he shows up, but this being hockey, who can say for sure?
Prediction: Tough one. The Sharks are much deeper than the Flames, and won’t have their top center just completely go Copperfield on them like Sean Monahan did. They should, should, expose the middle and bottom pairing of the Avs, which even with Makar isn’t up to this. And with Pavelski, I’d be much more assured that happens. But Grubauer over Jones makes up for that, or most of it. The Sharks might want a rest. They won’t get one. But they’re just a better team, especially if they get a Pavelski return.
Sharks in 7.
@ItWasThreeZero helped us out a couple weeks back with Sharks info. We’re using that again because quite simply we can’t afford the vaccinations it takes to get back where he hangs out.
Game #77 Preview Suite
Game Time: 8:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Elon Musk Is A Sociopath: Fear The Fin
To the remaining 8 people who still held onto any kind of reasonable playoff aspirations for the Hawks, yesterday’s display should have disabused anyone of that notion with a defensive performance against one of the worst offenses in the league that one would have go lunge into oncoming traffic to call “embarrassing”. They’ll get to follow that up tonight in Northern California against one of the prohibitive favorites to come out of the West in the Sharks. Terrific.