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You know those people that you only see at punk shows? Like you never run into them at the store or on the street? You don’t know where they come from? That’s @ItWasThreeZero. He’s our Sharks guy. 

Did the Sharks err by not getting a goalie at the deadline? Martin Jones‘s playoff record is stout but this regular season has been awfully bad…
There’s no question that goaltending has been the Sharks’ Achilles heel this season. Frankly it defies logic that the Sharks have the fourth-best record in the league while ranking dead last in both overall and 5v5 SV%. In fairness to Martin Jones (and Aaron Dell), the team adopted a high-risk, high-reward style of play this season that would deflate any goalie’s numbers. System changes alone don’t explain or justify both goalies sporting sub-.900 save percentages in March though. I think the hope, both organizationally and among the fanbase, is that Jones’ playoff numbers will more closely resemble his career average of .912. That’s probably why we didn’t see them make a move at the deadline despite rumors of interest in Ryan Miller. It’s easy to envision how this team, with its elite offense, possession numbers and special teams, could make a Cup run if the goaltending can be anything close to average. But it’s hard to have any confidence in Jones pulling that off at this point.
Did you like the pickups of Nyquist?
Despite having the league’s third-best offense, the Sharks don’t have a Nikita Kucherov or Johnny Gaudreau or even a Mark Scheifele or Filip Forsberg-calibre player up front. In order to have a chance at beating the teams that do have elite forward talent they need to continue to score by committee (led, of course, by huge contributions from Burns and Karlsson on the back end). The addition of Nyquist allows the Sharks to roll out a top nine that features six players on pace for 60 or more points this season plus two others scoring at a 50-point pace. Throw in double digit goal scorers Marcus Sorensen and Melker Karlsson on the fourth line and you have arguably the best forward depth in the league that the addition of Nyquist makes even deeper.
Brent Burns is on track to blow past the 76 points that got him a Norris two years ago. Should he be in contention to get another one?
To the extent that the Norris Trophy just goes to whichever defenseman puts up the most points these days, sure. If we’re talking about whether Burns has been the best overall defenseman in the NHL this year, it’s hard to make that argument. He starts over 70% of his 5v5 shifts in the offensive zone, usually against opposing second and third lines. That’s not a knock on Burns at all – the luxury of having both Karlsson and Burns on the same blueline has allowed Peter DeBoer to deploy him in the kind of specialized offensive role he’s always been best suited for and the results speak for themselves. Burns has unquestionably been a huge part of the Sharks’ success this season but he hasn’t quite had the same all-around impact as defensemen like Mark Giordano or Morgan Rielly who aren’t far behind Burns in terms of production either.
It looks like the Sharks path is going to have to go through Vegas and Calgary to even get to Winnipeg or Nashville. Is that just too daunting for a pretty old team?
It’s a brutal road and underscores the importance of winning the Pacific Division to avoid that 2 vs. 3 matchup, a feat that may be out of the Sharks’ grasp at this point depending on the health of Erik Karlsson. This is, at least on paper, the best roster in franchise history though. And while the Sharks’ average age might be a little high, key players like Karlsson, Hertl, Kane, Couture and Meier are at least theoretically still in their respective primes and it’s not like age has slowed Burns or Pavelski down significantly either. They should be good enough to beat Vegas and Calgary if they can get anything resembling average goaltending. If last year’s Capitals can win the Cup after running the gauntlet of Columbus, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay there’s no reason this Sharks roster can’t pull off a similar achievement.

 

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@ItWasThreeZero followed us home one day. We fed him at the back door of the building. He won’t leave us alone. We figure we can at least use him to get Sharks info. 

Three points behind the Flames isn’t where the Sharks were supposed to be. Everything metrically looks great, so is their lack of taking off simply down to Martin Jones?

 A lot of it is. It’s hard to win games when your starting goalie is throwing up a sub-.900 SV% for the majority of the season. That said the Sharks are also top third in the league at yielding high-danger scoring chances so they haven’t been doing Jones or Aaron Dell many favors. The team adopted a higher-risk, higher-reward style of play in the middle of last season in response to Vegas’ success and while it’s made them infinitely more bearable to watch than the previous iteration of Peter DeBoer hockey, it’s also resulted in giving up quite a few more five-alarm chances. Still, it’s not unreasonable to expect Jones to at least be within striking distance of league average and once he starts trending in that direction the Sharks theoretically have the offense, possession numbers and penalty killing to run away with the division.

Is it really worth complaining about Erik Karlsson, as some have done, when he’s got 21 points and appears to be driving the play as he always has?

 Nah. Karlsson has clearly been the team’s best overall player to anyone watching the games and controls the pace of play every time he’s on the ice. What is concerning is that, over a third of the way through the season, the coaching staff still hasn’t quite figured out how to use him. They’ve paired Karlsson with Brenden Dillon at even strength despite how dominant the pairing of Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic was to start the season. They haven’t figured out how to best combine Karlsson and Brent Burns’ talents on a single power play unit, often having Kevin Labanc quarterback the struggling man advantage instead. Then they turn around and throw arguably the two most offensively dynamic defensemen in the league out there together in bizarre situations, like on the penalty kill or a defensive zone faceoff. I don’t think the Sharks are a serious Cup contender until the coaches can figure out how to get the most out of Karlsson.

Meanwhile, Joe Thornton is average a near career-low in points per game. Just getting that old? Reason to worry?

 2018-19 is in all likelihood the Joe Thornton Farewell Tour so by those standards he’s been surprisingly effective. It helps that the Sharks haven’t really needed him to be more than a third-line center and occasional contributor on the power play and he’s played both of those roles admirably. Really the only goal with him is ensuring he’s healthy for the playoffs after missing the majority of the last two postseasons due to knee injuries.

What’s up with Timo Meier‘s breakout?

 Meier has always put up an insane shot rate going back to junior hockey and has taken that strategy to a new level this season. He’s currently third in the league in unblocked shots per minute at even strength, and with those shots going in at nearly twice the rate that they did last season it’s not surprising that he’s on pace for 50 goals. I don’t expect him to maintain that shooting percentage but based on the shot rate alone, and more importantly the types of chances he’s getting, Meier is going to blow away his previous career high of 21 goals and should easily clear the 35-goal mark as well. The biggest key is probably that his line with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl has the size and cycling ability to get Meier those chances in front of the net that are his bread and butter but they also have the speed and passing to create chances off the rush that Meier really didn’t generate much of last season.

 

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It only feels like we’ve been slogging through previews of teams that are, at best, not all that impressive, or just straight up bad. That’s what happens when you are stuck in the Pacific Division with nowhere to go and no escape route. But now we get to the good stuff.

Although it’s slightly painful, because the Sharks did, and have done the past couple years, what the Hawks couldn’t or wouldn’t do. They know there’s not much tread left on the tires of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture. Even Brent Burns is past 30. So is Marc-Edouard Vlasic. So when the timeline is limited, you say fuck it it’s free cake and you go get a generational player when he’s out there to be had. They cleared the decks for John Tavares. Didn’t work. The decks were still clear for Erik Karlsson. That did. And now they’re favorites in the West because they can get out of their division in about 10 games and then pick the carcass of whoever survives the Jets-Predators (maybe Blues?) tango of death in the Central.

It’s a fuck of a lot better than hoping your goalie who hasn’t played in a year can somehow find Vezina form in about seven minutes to shore up all the cracks in your team that you caused to begin with. Or watching Luke Fucking Johnson.

Let’s to it.

2017-2018: 45-27-10 100 points  252 GF 229 GA  50.8 CF% 51.9 xGF%  7.5 SH% .916 SV%

Goalies: You can’t really be more consistent than Martin Jones has been with the Sharks the past three seasons. He’s not been great, as he’s stayed between .912-.918 in save-percentage, but he’s never been terrible. He’s also brought it in the playoffs something serious, as he has averaged a .926 in them. He will turn 29 this season, so barring any type of injury there’s no reason to expect any kind of drop-off. And considering how much the Sharks might score, he probably doesn’t even need to be that good. If he played in Canada, you’d probably hear a fuckton more about him. You will this year.

Backing him up is Aaron Dell, and once you wade through the obnoxious amount of Silicon Valley jokes with him, he’s been about as sturdy a backup as you can find in the league. Because of him the Sharks don’t have to push Jones any more than 55-60 games and he’s fresh for their playoff runs. They could probably even get out of a couple weeks if Jones were to get hurt with Dell. This is something more GMs really should pay attention to.

Defense: Clearly this is where the fun begins. For 50 minutes a night at least, the Sharks can throw out either Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson, and basically know they’re going to get their foot in the ass of anyone up to the throat. No team is going to be able to boast anything close to this, and if you’re any kind of hockey fan you have to be at least a little excited to see what it looks like.

The only question is what Pete DeBoer lines this up as. Before, Vlasic and Justin Braun basically did the mine-sweeping for Burns, who then gooified lesser competition to his historic shot-rates. Obviously, Karlsson will take Braun’s right-sided role with Vlasic, and they’ll do more than just mine-sweep. Braun, unless he flips to the left-side and there hasn’t been much talk of that, slides down to the third-pairing with Brendon Dillon. But he’ll be used late in close games I would imagine with Vlasic to shore up the defensive zone. Basically, when you have Braun on your third-pairing but can slot up when needed, you have the best defense in the league.

DeBoer isn’t the most aggressive of coaches, but he’s also far from an idiot. It would be senseless to have these two horses on your team and not let them run. Considering what’s in front of them, this could be SHOWTIME! if they so choose.

Forwards: It’s the same story as always up top for the Sharks. It’s a bit top-heavy, and Pavelski is forced to play wing because they don’t have quite enough wings to make a top-six. Thornton-Couture-Pavelksi down the middle would probably be the best center-depth in the West, but you can’t turn down the 30-35 Pavelski will get on Thornton’s wing. That’s if Thornton is healthy, and after missing a big chunk of last year, this has to be a huge concern for a player who’s 39. Wouldn’t be shocked if Joe gets the back ends of back-to-backs off just because.

Hertl and Meier are going to flank Couture again, which is not a bad place to be. The third and fourth lines aren’t going to blow your eyelids off or anything, but Joonas Donskoi and Kevin LeBlanc have flashed being very useful in the past. They lost 40 points in Chris Tierney, but that’s the kind of thing you do to get the 80 you’ll get out of Karlsson, minimum. Don’t worry, the Sharks will call up someone with a really dumb name to fill in on the fourth line and it’ll be fine.

Outlook: Considering this power play was self-aware before, with Karlsson who knows where it goes. Yeah, maybe they’re a touch heavy at forward. They can throw Karlsson out behind the third and fourth lines a lot of shifts and make that not matter. Burns can continue to light it up behind the top two lines and against bums or both. The division sucks. This is the ultimate go-for-it. There aren’t any excuses left for the Sharks. Anything short of a Cup is a disappointment, and it very well might be their only chance.

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Everything Else

 vs. 

SCHEDULE: WE DON’T KNOW BECAUSE THE NHL IS A BUNCH OF STUPIDHEADS!

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Sharks fustigated the Ducks in 4, and the Knights did worse to the Kings in 4

At some point, the bubble has to burst. Thanks to the Kings deciding to play their first-round series like they were relegation fodder, the Knights got to simply waltz into the second round in their first playoff asking with barely a sweat. A steam-room for half an hour would have been more taxing. The Sharks won’t be as cowardly or stupid, but then they don’t have a horseshoe and salt and a rabbit’s foot jammed in their colon like the Knight have had all season. The Sharks come with no less playoff savvy than the Kings had, they just have a much better roster. One hopes this is where the Knights dance of the seven veils finally comes to an end, because this has been a bit silly.

Goalies: Whatever we said about Sergei Bobrovsky, the opposite just might be true of Martin Jones. He threw a .970 at the Ducks in the first round, though to be fair the Ducks didn’t post much more of a threat than a veiled suggestion at him. But this follows his .935 in the first round loss last year to the Oilers, and his .923 in the Sharks’ run to the Final in ’16. Jones just might be a playoff goalie, and he’ll get more support than Jonathan Quick got.

You used to toss all sort of jokes at Marc-Andre Fleury, and then he’d let those jokes pass by his glove or through his legs into the net. Not so now. Fleury was even better than Jones in the first round with a .977, but then again he faced even less of a threat than Jones did as the Kings barely sent one forward over the red line all series while Dustin Brown looked at things with his Dustin Brown face. We can say for sure that Fleury will get tested more here, but this is the same guy who backstopped the Penguins through the first two rounds last year. Where and if the Knights break, it’s unlikely to be in net.

Defense: While it doesn’t get the pub outside of Brent Burns, this is the Sharks’ strength. It’s not as good as it could be, as for reasons he can’t even understand or explain Peter DeBoer has eschewed Joakim Ryan for the smoldering husk of Paul Martin to play with Brent Burns which is a really bad idea. The Sharks defense actually spent a lot of time on the back foot against the Ducks, though with all of the Ducks merely looking at their watch the whole series they didn’t give up a lot of good chances. You’d still take this top four, and Vlasic and Braun have a better chance at nullifying the Knights’ top line. It’s not the quickest outside of Burns, making the not-playing of Ryan even more curious, and they might have to play it cautious to keep from the Knights getting behind them a lot. Which was the Kings’ problem.

I feel like I’m done trying to explain anything that goes on with Vegas. On paper, this defense sucks. Nate Schmidt is the only one you’d want. Maybe Shea Theodore if you’ve had one too many, which is the state I assume most NHL general managers operate in. But McNabb and Engelland suck and we know this. I couldn’t pick Colin Miller or John Merrill out of a lineup. And yet because the Kings didn’t do anything other than occasionally try and spread germs to them, they were untested in the first round. You’d think they’ll get no such breaks from the far deeper Sharks, especially as Donskoi and Hertl seemed to get going in Round 1. This has to be the weak point the Sharks can exploit.

Forwards: Hanging over this series is when and if Joe Thornton will return. The real question is whether the Sharks are better without him right now. Pavelski has been a much better center than wing, and he was a pretty good wing. The Sharks play faster without Thornton, and their goal-, attempt-, and scoring chance-rates have all risen since Thornton got hurt. If the Sharks jump out to a lead in this series they can hold Thornton back even longer, though it sounds like he’s never going to be healthy. Even without him, this is a deep team. The Sharks got contributions from all four lines in their ass-stuffing of the Ducks, which has been a calling-card of the Knights. When Thornton does come back it’ll be interesting if they don’t try and simply get what they can out of him and just have him replace Eric Fehr on the fourth line. For right now, they’ve got enough.

The Knights were a little more top-heavy than the Sharks in Round 1, though given the way the Kings tried to play a Panic Room game there weren’t a lot of chances to go around. They only needed seven goals to get through. Seven goals won’t get it done here, and while the Sharks will be more open than the Kings were the Knights are going to have to get more from the likes of Eakin, Nosek, Haula, and the bottom six to get out. Because the likelihood is that Pavelski, Kane, Hertl, Donskoi are going to match whatever the Knights’ top six does.

Prediction: This one’s going to go a while, because both goalies are playing too well to see either team get out of this in four or five. Each will get at least one goalie win. And while everything seems to be breaking the Knights’ way, I trust the Sharks’ defense and bottom six more than theirs. The Sharks also probably get an emotional boost from Thornton’s return, especially as it looks like it’ll happen, in whatever form, at home in Game 3 or 4. Sharks in 6. 

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Sharks 43-23-9   Hawks 31-36-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THEY CAN’T AFFORD IT EITHER: Fear The Fin

A friend of the program, one Kevin Kujawa–guitarist and singer for great local band of the past Mannequin Men– used to refer to the first game after the trade deadline as “New Toy Day.” Well, the Hawks didn’t get that this year as it was clearance sale time, but Hawks fans will get some of that this week as the Hawks show off what they hope will be a couple pieces that matter in the future.

The first one arrives tonight in Victor Ejdsell, probably referred to from here on out as “Eggshell.” He’s a big center, whom they’re probably already envisioning taking Anismov’s place so they can punt him to the nearest taker this summer that’s also on his list (YOU’RE ON OUR LIST. HE NAMED NAMES!). Ejdsell comes with plus-hands, so we’re told, though the Hawks are probably already telling him to get his ass to the front of the net which will kneecap his playmaking abilities we’re told he has a bit. Whatever, there will be plenty of time to worry about that next year. The big concern is whether or not he can skate enough to make any of it matter, or if he’s just a monolith the Hawks hope they can park at the other crease but which hurts you in every other aspect. He’d better be the former, otherwise the trade of a definitely useful Ryan Hartman is just simply running in place (because he was a first-round pick at #30, which seemingly everyone evaluating that trade forgot). The Hawks were after Ejdsell when he chose the Predators, and generally the European players they’ve been hot on tend to work out at least ok (Jan Rutta excluded and they’re going to give that one another go anyway).

The other one is Dylan Sikura, who will arrive Thursday. We’ll talk more about him then but he’ll be an interesting watch because he’s got a big chance to more than just ballast on the team next year, even if he’s in desperate need of a sandwich. Just a shame he couldn’t bring Adam Gaudette with him.

As for the rest of the story with the Hawks, there isn’t one really. Toews is still out, with some mystery injury that definitely isn’t either “tired of this shit” or “has been playing with something for months and can’t be bothered anymore but don’t think it’s a head injury” or “we’re actually trying to tank.” After Anton Forsberg looked decent against the Isles he’ll get the start again, but we know what it’s looked like when he’s tried to put two starts together. So JF Berube should probably be properly warmed and stretched, as Q pulls a goalie switch for the 46th time this season.

This game matters a little to the Sharks, though not that much. They’ve pretty much held off either the Kings or Ducks for the second spot in the Pacific, especially with the seven-game winning streak they’re currently on (you can do that?). They’re four up on the Ducks and have a game in hand, and six up on the Kings with a game in hand. So they’ll start the playoffs at home against either, and really they should beat either. But these are the Sharks, and without a healthy Thornton anything is possible for them. Pavelski has been great at center, and that should be enough to see off either of their California brethren. But again, the Sharks have found a way in the past to drive their car into a swimming pool.

After a hiccup around the turn of the year, Martin Jones has been excellent the past two months and the Sharks would enter either series with the better goalie, which is a leg up (sorry Jonathan Quick but we know what you are). While it doesn’t jump out at you, the Sharks are deeper than most teams even without Thornton. Pavelski and Evander “I’m The Other Fuckstick Named…” Kane have been quite the force on the top line, Couture and Hertl have dovetailed on the second line, and Tierney andLeBanc have been a surprise on the third. A Thornton return along with Joonas Donskoi (who’s only day-to-day) only adds to that. They’ll be deeper up front than either the Ducks or Kings, that’s for sure.

You know the story on the blue line. Marc-Eduoard “This Is What Seabrook Was Supposed To Be” Vlasic and Justin Braun are the human shield for Brent Burns on the second pairing, and he simply runs wild. Again, a unique weapon to have. And Brenden Dillon and Dylan “Fine And” DeMelo on the third pairing aren’t really a disaster. Again, sneaky depth.

Even with all that, it’s hard to know if the Sharks are that good. Their special teams for sure are, and that’s gotten them a long way. But this is one of the more boring Sharks teams we can remember, who play in a terrible division and when you watch them nothing really jumps out. Then again, that’s the exact kind of team that comes alive in the playoffs when things get choppier. Secondly, in that division there’s no one who’s going to turn up the pace on them that they can’t handle, which is what Edmonton did last year and the Penguins the year before. You could see if they ran into a misplaced Colorado team in the second round where that could be a problem, but that’s one line and specifically one guy. Vegas, if it somehow shambles its way out of the first round even without Fleury, will see it all pop against the vastly more experienced Sharks. Really, this team merely has to stand still to get to a conference final, where it probably will be laced by Nashville or Winnipeg, assuming there’s anything left of either of those teams after they’re done bludgeoning each other in the second round.

Let’s have fun with our new toys these last two weeks. It’s all we got.

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While we’ve highlighted in the past how unique Brent Burns is, he has some of the same issues that Duncan Keith did when he won his second Norris in 2014 (not that it stopped Eddie Olczyk’s campaign for him coming to its triumphant conclusion). Burns is perhaps the most offensively dominant d-man in a long time, and no blue-liner has ever created as many shots and attempts for himself. But Burns partly gets to do that because Marc-Eduoard Vlasic does the heavy lifting for him.

Over the past five seasons, 171 d-men have played at least 3,000 minutes at even strength. Only 20 of them have had worse zone starts than Vlasic. Only three have faced harder competition over the past five years than Vlasic. And yet only one d-men the past five seasons has a better expected goals-percentage than Vlasic, and that’s Jared Spurgeon in Minnesota. With all that, Burns has had a platform to simply run over second and third lines as a Shark. One wonders if he’d be able to do that with the zone starts and competition that Vlasic has taken on for him. We’ll probably never find out.

Vlasic has been the most important Shark, without any of the pub, for years now. It was his injury that turned the series against the Kings in 2014, where they blew a 3-0 lead. Had Vlasic been healthy, they probably find the win they need and that Sharks team could have gone a long way. Much like Keith here in Chicago, when Vlasic has been good, the Sharks have been good and vice versa.

Sadly, he’s probably headed for the Seabrook treatment soon.

Vlasic has a contract extension that starts next year, which sees his cap hit go from $4.2 million per year, one of the biggest bargains in the league, to $7 million per year until 2023-2024. Vlasic will be 31 next year, and while he hasn’t shown his age yet you know that’s coming. IT also comes with a full no-trade. Considering the age of Thornton, Pavelski, and Couture, when the Sharks window closes you can be sure some are going to look at this contract It’s just the nature of the beast.

There are already signs of age. When it comes to Corsi, his relative ratings have dropped to below the team rate the past two seasons, a first for “Pickels.” So has his relative expected goals percentage, which doesn’t give you too much hope for the next six years which he’s signed for. Thee are more shots-against him per 60 than there ever have been, as well as goals-against and expected goals-against. Luckily, while Vlasic has been facing heavier quicksand Burns has been still able to shoot the lights out.

The Sharks don’t have any retired numbers, and you’d figure that Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton will be the first. #44 should join them one day, as they haven’t had a better d-man, or at least as long as Vlasic has been around. That doesn’t mean the end won’t be bumpy.

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@ItWasThreeZero always answers our questions about the Sharks. We’d really like to think he has something better to do, but we and he know that he doesn’t. 

Ignoring the fact that he’s a raging dickbag, what’s it been like on the ice having Evander Kane?

Kane’s off-ice history of sexual assault makes him an impossible player to cheer for but the on-ice results speak for themselves. With 7 goals and 12 points in 12 games, Kane has been the jolt of offense the Sharks expected when they traded for him and then some. They’d been looking for a Patrick Marleau replacement since the longest-tenured Shark signed in Toronto and at least on the ice they have one in Kane, another big fast winger who can score, kill penalties and fit in on just about any line.

Tomas Hertl has 10 points in his last 11. We’ve sort of been waiting for him to replicate what he looked like as a rookie. Is this it or just another hot streak?

Hertl’s talent level is always on display but the trouble with him over the past few seasons has been finding linemates he can click with. During the Sharks’ 2016 run to the Cup Final, those were Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski but a need to spread out the offense more in Marleau’s absence has meant that’s a line Peter DeBoer hasn’t had the luxury of putting together very often this year. Over the past dozen games, Hertl has slotted in with Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker on a very potent second line and it looks like he’s found linemates he’s comfortable playing with again.

Is Thornton going to play in the playoffs? What does it mean for his future as a Shark?

No one really seems to have any idea including Thornton himself. But given the fact he played in the majority of last year’s first round loss to Edmonton while both his knees were suspended in Jell-O, it’s going to take a lot to keep Thornton out of the lineup in late April regardless of whether that’s the most medically prudent move at this stage of the 38-year-old’s career. Even if he doesn’t return this season, there’s no indication Thornton intends to retire over the summer so I’m sure he’ll be brought back on a one-year deal with a more modest salary than this year’s $8 million.

How far can the Sharks go in the playoffs? The Pacific is something of a mess…

Their underlying numbers are still fairly middling but the Sharks have been generating a lot more offense in the 2018 calendar year even without Joe Thornton and Joonas Donskoi for much of that time, and despite a once 2nd-ranked power play falling apart. If Thornton and Donskoi can be healthy in time for the playoffs, there’s no reason the Sharks can’t advance to the conference final. They match up against their own division as well as any team in the league. Of course they’re still the Sharks so a first round choke job against the Kings isn’t out of the question either.

 

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Brent Burns is crazy. You knew this. You’ve seen the clothes and the beard, and it doesn’t really appear to be an act. Sure, it’s tailored for the cameras and Iphones, but one gets the impression he’d be this way anyway if no one was watching. Hockey has just given him a bigger platform.

Brent Burns is also crazy on the ice. One of the most remarkable statistics of this year is that Brent Burns, a defenseman mind you, leads the league in attempts per 60 at even strength. He’s tied with Vladimir Tarasenko. He averages 22.3 attempts per 60 minutes. You have to go down to 11th to find the next d-man, which is Yohann Auvitu. To find the next d-man who actually matters, you have to go all the way down to 37th for Johnny Boychuk. And he’s at 16.3 attempts per 60. Again, this is at even-strength. Again, this is a defenseman.

And this is not unusual for Burns. Burns led the league last year in attempts per 60. And again, you’d need a telescope to find the next d-man on the list. Burns was fifth the year before that. And this season he’s averaging more attempts than he ever has.

While it obviously doesn’t quite connect that if you lead in attempts you will score a lot, Burns’s uniqueness is what marks him out. He’s headed for another 60+ point season from the back, so you can hardly argue with the results. And it’s not as if Burns is just firing to fire. Burns leads all d-men in shots-on-goal, and by some distance. He has 247, over four per game. The next d-man on the list is Roman Josi at 202. It was the case last year, when Burns led all d-men in shots by nearly 100! Burns already has the first and fourth most shots by a blue-liner in a season, and if he doesn’t get hurt and continues at this pace this season will probably rank in the top three or four as well.

While it looks like Burns’s production has dropped off, and it has, it can be mostly blamed on a 4% shooting-percentage overall and 2.3% at even-strength. His career shooting-percentage would see him with 17 goals instead of the 10 he has now, and the chances he’s getting are of the same quality.

It’s such a unique weapon. Given how offense is produced these days, and how teams defend, if you have a d-man who can open himself up for shots this much you create all that furor in front of the net that result in most of the goals scored now. It’s not much of a shocked that all of one of Joe Pavelski’s goals have come with Brent Burns on the ice, given his usual proximity to the net.

Sadly, Burns may soon be toiling in obscurity if he isn’t already. We know he’s paid $8 million until the universe explodes. And what happens when Burns can’t get these shots off at this rate anymore? Burns is 32, and the fact that he can do this even now is really astonishing. You’d have to think in the next two or three years, the Sharks would have to find a way to get him into a bum-slaying role where he could still shoot this much. We know the end can come quick for mobile d-men.

The Sharks have all of Thornton, Couture, and Pavelski with expiring contracts this year or next. Burns is going to be around for the next iteration of the Sharks when they’re competitive. What he’ll be then is anyone’s guess. For now, he’s truly a phenomena.

 

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@ItWasThreeZero seemed lost and confused and wandering around. We figured that was the best type to answer our questions about the Sharks. Just another Bay Area refugee who can’t understand the outside world.

First look we’ve gotten at the Sharks. Somewhat comfortable in second in the Pacific, and yet we don’t know if they’re actually good? Are they good?

At this point the better question might be “is anyone in the Western Conference good?” Nashville probably is but unless William Karlsson and Erik Haula are gonna keep shooting at Mike Bossy levels for Vegas, the Predators might be the only legitimate Cup contender in the conference. The Sharks are clustered alongside eight or nine other teams with postseason aspirations and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they finished anywhere from second in the Pacific to 11th in the West and out of the playoffs.

The main issue with the Sharks is their lack of offensive firepower as most of their former high-end scoring threats are firmly in the “old as balls” and/or “signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer” stages of their respective careers.  That said this is a deep roster that can capably roll four lines even in the midst of key injuries and has eight NHL options on defense. Combine that with good goaltending and strong special teams and you have a solid if unspectacular team. That might be enough to make the playoffs and even a win a round or two in the West this year.

Kevin Labanc has 31 points this season. Is he a thing?

 Labanc is the most recent late-round gem the Sharks’ scouting staff has unearthed and he fits the mold of previous finds like Joe Pavelski. He’s a smaller dude and far from an effortless skater but what he lacks in size and speed he makes up for with puckhandling ability, vision and a heavy, accurate shot. Labanc scored over 250 points in his final two OHL seasons and was a point-per-game player as a 20-year-old in the AHL last year getting his first taste of pro hockey. The kid is legit and seems to have a bright future as a middle-six scoring winger. He’s basically Kirkland Signature Alex DeBrincat.

Timo Meier is getting his first serious run in the NHL. We know there are high hopes for this kid. What have you seen?

 Everyone knows the Sharks should have taken Mathew Barzal 9th overall in the 2015 draft. What this answer presupposes is…maybe they shouldn’t have? Okay they definitely should have but that doesn’t mean their actual selection, Timo Meier, hasn’t been a valuable addition to the team. He’s a big kid who always showed a preternatural ability for generating shots in junior and that’s carried over to his nascent NHL career. He currently has the 20th best 5-on-5 shot rate of anyone in the league (min. 200 minutes) and while his actual finishing ability could still use some work he should flirt with 20 goals this year, which is all you can ask for from a 21-year-old winger in his first full professional season.

Joe Pavelski only has 15 goals so far. Is this anything more than Thornton being hurt for part of the season? He is 33, is this the decline?

Pavelski has actually scored five of those 15 goals in the 14 games since Thornton went down with a knee injury so it’s not that. In fact, he’s played his best hockey of the season since being moved back to his natural position of center in Thornton’s absence. Some of his decline in production can be blamed on injuries he was playing through earlier in the year but the reality is Pavelski, like many of the Sharks’ key players, has probably aged out of his scoring prime.

He’s still a useful player but it’s likely he’ll never score 30 goals again and that’s something Doug Wilson has to plan around this summer. Pavelski is still a big name and it might be worth it to the Sharks to get some future assets for him while they still can. On that note it’s a shame the NHL didn’t send players to the Olympics this year because the whining from Toronto over Mike Sullivan or whoever giving Pavelski more minutes than Auston Matthews would have been hilarious.

The Sharks finishing second means they’ll probably see a pretty flawed team in the first round. They then could get Vegas or a wild card if the bubble bursts on the Knights. Could the Sharks simply fall upwards to a conference final?

 It would be the most Patrick Marleau thing ever to play through 20 years of increasingly painful heartbreak with the Sharks only to have them turn around and fall ass backwards into a Stanley Cup the year after he leaves, thanks to a weak playoff field and Steven Stamkos’ leg falling off or something. Now I’m convinced this is going to happen.

 

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