Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 33-33-10   Sharks 43-24-9

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

ALSO FAKING THEIR VOICE LIKE ELIZABETH HOLMES: Fear The Fin

If you were to ask both fanbases, both would tell you their team is a mess, a disaster, an embarrassment. One has lost six in a row, and one has lost four of its last five. Neither is living up to the expectations the front offices themselves set for their respective team. But really, only one of these teams is a true mess.

The Sharks are the ones who have lost six in a row. They’ve lost touch with the Flames at the top of the division, and the Bay Area faithful are already chewing their nails down to the quick over a first-round matchup with the Knights (who happened to paste the Sharks a few games ago, at least on the scoreboard but as analytics have told us that doesn’t count). Erik Karlsson won’t play until the playoffs, and it’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% then. And rushing him back is what got them in this predicament in the first place. Joe Pavelski has missed the last four games, isn’t a sure bet for tonight, and nagging injuries with 10 days to go to your best forward who happens to be 34 doesn’t set anyone’s nerves at ease.

What’s really causing the angina-kicks in San Jose is that the Sharks can’t get a damn save anywhere. Both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have gone Little-League-Outfielder-With-The-Glove-On-His-Head in the crease, and the Sharks have the worst SV% at even-strength in the league. Which makes their 95 points and glittering metrics something of a wow, and also exemplifies how good this team really is. If they were getting league average goaltending, they’d probably be able to see where the Lightning are. Most nights, the Sharks demolish teams, and then watch Jones or Dell either make it much harder than it should be or ruin the work altogether. Even in this six-game punt, the Sharks have carried a 56+% share in every game and the same in scoring chances save one.

So yeah, the Sharks bet that Martin Jones would figure it out as the spring invaded seems a shaky one right now (and Jones has the playoff pedigree where you could see the logic). And the Sharks have more riding on these playoffs than just about anyone. Karlsson’s a free agent. Thornton’s a free agent and might retire. Pavelski is a free agent. There’s a heavy now-or-never feel to this.

As for the Hawks…who knows? The season is officially toast now. When you’re tired with the Oilers with six to go, you’re toast. Them’s the rules. So what do you watch for now? I don’t know. There’s nothing that Dylan Strome or Brendan Perlini or the like are going to do in the last six games that’s going to make you feel any differently about them come next year. You already know what the defense is. Maybe Crawford will get a day off now, or the chance to close out the season strongly.

So I guess the thing to watch is the emotional response. Do the Hawks chuck it and mail in the last six games? Do they still try and play well and be professional about it? It might give you some indication about what the players as a whole think of Coach Cool Youth Pastor. If this team isn’t going all out, then the results for these last games could be ugly/hilarious/high art. And also make for a very curious tone heading into camp next year. Once you chuck it on a coach, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. Recall that the Hawks showed some spikiness at the very end of last year for Q.

There’s no doubt the Sharks would be looking at this as their get-well night. They’ve pulverized the Hawks twice already, and they never looked like they had to get out of second gear to do so. And they probably want to get right, because their next two are Calgary and Vegas, and they at least need to throw down a marker for themselves in those. Otherwise, if they somehow puke this one tonight, they could be looking at eight or nine games biffed in a row, and that’s not how you want to enter the last week and playoffs.

I’m still high on the Sharks, but it’s more out of hope than expectation now. If Pavelski and/or Karlsson are iffy, and the goalies are the goalies, it’s quite a challenge. You would expect the antenna will be up for San Jose tonight. That’s probably very bad news for a questionably interested Hawks team.

 

 

 

Game #77 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

@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. 

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.

 

Game #77 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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.

 

Game #66 Preview Suite

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Q&A

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Make sure I got that one right, as a real horse-racing fan should. Anyway, there’s really less than a quarter of the season left, but now’s as good of a time as any to see who should rack up the hardware at the end of the year, though most probably won’t. As always, a metric-look is usually involved here.

Hart Trophy (MVP) – Nikita Kucherov

Yes, I know. Patrick Kane has a case. He’s playing with worse players and his numbers aren’t all that far off from Kucherov’s. He is single-handedly keeping a dogshit team barely relevant, and without him the Hawks would be a shoe-in for top spot in the lottery and the Hawks would be a monolith to sadness and confusion (most of these arguments also apply to Connor McDavid, but let’s leave that for a second. And the Oilers are that monolith). That’s all well and good and if you say that I won’t tell you you’re wrong. But like we said at every other checkpoint on this, 130 points is 130 points like a football in the groin is a football in the groin. Kucherov is more a reason those other players are really good than vice versa. These things just don’t have to be that hard.

Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie) – John Gibson

Next week, this won’t be the case and you’ll probably have to give it Vasilevskiy. That is unless Gibson returns and kills it for the season’s last month. But no one was facing more attempts and better chances than Gibson, and until recently no one was turning more of them away at a better rate than he should have been, according to expected-save-percentage. He dropped off the last month, crumbling under the weight of a fucking quarry that Carlyle and the Ducks put on him, but if he can put up a good last month it should be his. It won’t be, and the Lightning will add this to the haul of trophies they’re likely to get. Gibson should get it because the Ducks will have actually killed him by April 1st and it’ll make a nice marker for his grave.

Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman) – Erik Karlsson
This is going to be Mark Giordano‘s Lifetime Achievement Award, and I don’t really have a problem with that. And Karlsson’s recent bout of ouchiness would probably preclude him anyway. But on a good possession team to begin with, Karlsson stands out over everyone with how much more he pushes his team forward than they do without him. It’s basically him and Dougie Hamilton. Karlsson can’t buy a bucket for himself, shooting less than 1% somehow at even-strength. But he’s still in all the right places and in fact he’s getting more shots for himself than he has before. He’s going to drag this team with its shitty goaltending to a conference final at least by the dick, and everyone will probably shrug because we’re so accustomed. He’s a goddamn treasure.

Rod Langway Award (Best defensive defenseman, doesn’t actually exist) – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Boy, that hurts. But no one gets buried in their zone more to start than Hammer and OEL and according to the metrics, no one does a better job of limiting chances at a rate above their team’s than Hjalmarsson. Even though you’ve won half the battle against them by starting in the right end, they’re not allowing you any chances. So this didn’t go according to plan at all.

Calder Trophy (Rookie) – WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!

Again, I only put this in so my one Canucks fan friend doesn’t yell at me, because otherwise I don’t care.

Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) – Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Yep, a fucking teenager. But no forward limits expected goals and attempts against at less of a rate than any of his teammates than this kid. They’re still going to give it to Patrice Bergeron, which like, fine, but at some point you have to find someone new. And it’s going to be Kotkaniemi. In two years you just watch, every Canadiens fan and media is going to stamp their feet and wet themselves until he gets the recognition that Bergeron does simply because they can’t have the Bruins having that over them, and everyone will go along with it just to get them to shut up. Except this time they’ll be right.

Everything Else

You miss most of their games because they’re on late. You might have seen on Twitter this morning that we got awfully close to a Joe Thornton cock-trick last night. He had a hat trick and there was an overtime to add to it, and hockey twitter waited with anticipation you could cut and serve as a side dish.

You’ll also notice they lost in overtime on a night they gave up just 20 shots. And this is the problem for the San Jose Sharks.

The Sharks are the best team in the Western Conference. By any measure, it’s not even all that close. Whatever metric you want, the Sharks are top-five in and most likely top-three. They limit attempts, shots, and chances while creating a fuckload of their own. They roll teams most mights. The Sharks recently had a stretch of six games where they were below water in possession. Shockingly, Erik Karlsson missed all of those games. They also won all of them.

But the one thing the Sharks can’t get is a save. They’re last in the league in even-strength save-percentage, and the only team below .900 in the category. Overall in every situation, they’re second-worst behind only Florida. Even just league-median goaltending of .902 overall would have seen the Sharks give up 20 less goals. That’s about six points in the standings or so, which would have them well clear of the Flames in the Pacific (though still 10 points behind the Lightning, who aren’t even playing the same sport right now).

And the Sharks have six days to decide what they’re going to do about it.

There are some parallels to last year’s champs. Martin Jones’s collapse, much like Braden Holtby’s last year during the regular season, came out of nowhere. Jones has been as solid as you could ask in San Jose, with a .915 over three seasons. At 29, he certainly wasn’t poised for a dive over the cliff due to age. And it’s not workload either, as Jones is seeing less shots per game this season than he was last year (28.3 vs. 27.8). And the types of chances Jones is seeing are just about the same, as the differences in scoring-chances per hour and high-danger ones that the Sharks are surrendering are negligible.

Now, I’ve already been on record that Jones will pull a Holtby, and follow up a subpar regular season with a playoff rescue act and everyone will quickly forget that he was so bad during the 82. Jones has been more than reliable in the playoffs with the Sharks, sporting a .926 across three forays, including a .923 during their run to the Final in 2016. If the Sharks want to count on that, there’s evidence. And the Sharks, given what they’ve been doing, really only need average goaltending to beat most anyone. Their first round is likely to see them beat up on any of the remedial class in the West (assuming they can beat the Flames out for the division). Even finishing second will see them find Vegas who have been woeful of late and Marc-Andre Fleury is doing the humpty-hump in net.

A second round dance with the Flames is unlikely to see the Sharks get goalie’d either, as Mike Smith will be Neymar’ing everywhere or David Rittich will be seeing all of this for the first time. Stranger things have happened of course, but you wouldn’t bet on it.

It’s beyond that where the problems lie. Connor Hellebuyck or Pekka Rinne are both capable of going Iron Curtain for a series, and in the Final you’re most likely trying to keep the Lightning’s Punisher collection of weapons at bay. Can’t do that with even average goaltending, you wouldn’t think.

But if you’re the Sharks, everything is on this year. Conference final isn’t good enough. Neither is just a Final appearance. You’re here to do the damn thing. This is Joe Thornton’s last year, most likely. Erik Karlsson doesn’t seem guaranteed beyond this spring. Everyone else who matters is over 30. This is the one. So what do you do, hotshot?

The answers on at the deadline aren’t plentiful. Jimmy Howard out of Detroit can be serviceable, and behind a much worse team. But his last attempt at the playoffs was three years ago and it saw him get clocked so heavily he was pulled as starter. He hasn’t had a decent playoff run since 2013 when he nearly helped pull the wool over the Hawks’ eyes, and only a Seabrook speculative off of Kronwall’s stick kept him from doing so. He’s far from guaranteed.

Maybe you see if Luongo has one more run left in him before he hits the beach for good? But he’s been ouchy and bad all season, and if one of those goes TWANG! again you’d be back to Jones anyway. Jonathan Quick is signed for a million more years. Craig Anderson is also old. There isn’t much else to find.

But that’s ok, the Sharks’ entire legacy is only riding on this…

Everything Else

Time to check in on what the NHL individual awards should be. If you’re new, first of all what are you doing here this place is nuts!, and second every so often I like to look at what the NHL awards should be if voters actually paid attention to what matters. There isn’t as much deviation as you’d think from how it will go, but there is some. So let’s get in up to the elbow.

Hart Trophy – Nikita Kucherov

This will seem simple. Again, an MVP award always settles into an annoying debate about whether it’s simply a “Player Of The Year” award, which it should be, or a “Most Valuable To His Team” as if you could somehow measure that. To me, it’s the former. And even that can end in debate, because in hockey it’s hard to separate what a player is doing himself from what linemates might be helping him with.

And then you see Kucherov is on pace for 135 points this year and the whole discussion seems kind of dumb.

Sure, he’s on a line with Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, and that doesn’t hurt. It would also be the problem with handing it to Mikko Rantanen or Nathan MacKinnon, who play with each other. Johnny Gaudreau has Sean Monahan. I’m not sure any of this matters, as the production is the production.

Again, 135 points. Seems pretty clear.

Honorable Mentions – Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane

I have this feeling that before the year is out, Run CMD is going to make some insane run to try and drag his scrapyard-constructed Oilers team into the playoffs, and might end up with 130 points himself. And he probably won’t have nearly the help that the others do, unless Leon Draisaitl ends up on his line again. And that didn’t prevent his first Hart Trophy. If you need someone who’s doing it by himself, and we’ll write about this more tomorrow, it’s the local option. Kane has spent most of his year playing with either Nick Schmaltz, who was royally fucking up his free agent year, or Dylan Strome who is still below 80 NHL games and is very much finding his way, or the totem pole that is Artem Anisimov. And he’s sixth in scoring on his way to 100 points. So he has a serious case.

Calder Trophy – Elias Pettersson

I’m only putting this in here because the only Canucks fan in my life hasn’t stopped bitching that I didn’t include this in our quarter season assessment, and I’m hoping doing it now will get him off my goddamn back. Also, there isn’t any debate here and this is easy. Everyone gets to walk with this Elias, although I suppose if Collin Delia maintains a .940 SV% the rest of the season, maybe we’ll be assholes and try and build him up.

Also Elias allows for even more jokes besides wrestling ones…no seriously, Dude, he’s a Pettersson with a record.

Honorable Mention – fuck off, there’s no one else

Selke Trophy – Anthony Cirelli

Yes, this is where we get weird. This is where we try and find our Jacob deGrom/Felix Hernandez Cy Young, where a victory for the metrics punches through the old guard. It won’t ever happen, and Patrice Bergeron is going to win this again especially as he’s been a point-per-game, and you can’t win this award without scoring. Which is annoyingly dumb, because nowhere is scoring mentioned in the term, “Best Defensive Forward.” The idea is to play defense.

So we’re opting for Cirelli, who is top-five in relative attempts-against, shots-against, and scoring-chances against, and that’s relative to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who don’t give up any chances and shots anyway. So he’s basically muzzling everything across from him to the point of zesting it. Sure, he’s not taking the hardest assignments and his zone starts have him kind of in the middle of the pack, but no one gets anything going against him and his line.

And he’ll be no closer to winning this award than I am.

Honorable Mention – Fredric Gaudreau, David Kampf

Totally serious on the last one. All the Hawks do is bleed high-danger chances against, and Kampf somehow prevents them. He’s in the top five in relative high-danger chances against.

Norris Trophy – Erik Karlsson

There are plenty of reasons that E.K. is wonderful, and one of them is that he sits comfortably at the nexus of crusty hockey thinking and forward hockey thinking, as oxymoronic of a term as that might be. Generally this goes to the d-man who scores the most, and Karlsson is currently fifth in the league in that and has been zooming up the charts. Don’t be shocked if he ends up leading before too long. He also has glowing metrics, in the top five in attempts-share and shots-share and chance-share. He’s utterly dominating play, but you wouldn’t know it from all the people bitching about the Sharks perceived lack of success because their goaltending sucks. You don’t have to overthink this. He’s the best d-man on the planet and he’s who the Hawks should be planning to throw a monster truck of money at this summer instead of Artemi “I’ll Wait Over Here” Panarin.

Honorable Mention – Dougie Hamilton

Rod Langway Award – Niklas Hjalmarsson

This is what the award would be if it was just about defense, which I don’t think it has to be but if you were to split it. And it hurts to put this, because Connor Murphy has been good here this year with little help. But Hammer starts more shifts than just about anyone in his own zone, and is far and away getting the play up the ice more than anyone who starts as often in his own end than he does. Sure, it helps to play with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but let’s not punish.

Honorable Mention – Josh Manson

Vezina Trophy – John Gibson

The Ducks are just as terrible of a defensive team as the Hawks. They give up just about the same amount of scoring chances and high-danger chances per game. Whereas the Hawks have already broken two goalies, Gibson is carrying a .923. The Ducks suck on the penalty kill too, and Gibson is maintaining a .904 SV% there. He’s somehow kept a decrepit Ducks squad being piloted by an actual undercooked ham around the playoff picture. It’s his to lose.

Honorable Mention – Ben Bishop, Freddie Andersen

Everything Else

There are very few players whose switching of conferences can change the entire outlook of one. So when one of those actually does switch conferences, and he doesn’t light up the world and then tear a hole in it that he fills with peanut butter cups, most are inclined to tell you he’s a disappointment. Erik Karlsson is one of those players of the three or four there are. And most think he’s having a down season. In some ways, he’s actually having his best.

Yes, there are only two goals. Yes, none of them are at even-strength. His points-per-game are his lowest in about seven years. We get all that. And yet on the most talented team he’s ever played on (it’s not even close), Karlsson has the best relative stats of his career.

Karlsson’ +7.07% Corsi-relative is the second highest mark of his career, only bested by his ’15-’16 when he should have been racking up a third Norris instead of having Kings fans wet their bed so much they nearly solved the California drought problem to get Drew Doughty his. His relative-xGF% of +8.91 blows anything else he’s done in his career out of the water. When Karlsson is on the ice, the Sharks are getting far more good scoring chances than the other team, they just haven’t buried as many of them.

There are caveats. Because the Sharks, unlike the Senators at any time, have other good d-men (including a Team Canada worthy ones in Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns), Karlsson doesn’t have to do everything for them. So he’s starting nearly 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone, also a career-high. And his quality of competition has dipped a little, as the really hard stuff is left for Vlasic and Justin Braun. They always did the mine-sweeping for Burns, and now they’re doing it for Karlsson as well. That said, you can’t ask more of Karlsson than to simply turn the opponent into a pot pie with that, and Karlsson is doing so.

Karlsson’s lack of goals is curious, as this is the second straight season his shooting-percentage has dipped. He shot 4.6% last year and this year it’s 1.9%. That seems ridiculously low. Even stranger is that Karlsson is getting more shots than he has in four seasons, over three per game. You can expect a binge somewhere around here that will make his points-total look a little more like we’re accustomed to seeing.

Which leads directly to questions about Karlsson’s future. It could already be sorted, of course, as the Sharks aren’t allowed to sign Karlsson to an extension until the new year. Perhaps they have a handshake agreement already. If they don’t, it gets a little tricky. The Sharks have something around $28M in space for next year, which seems enough. But Joe Pavelski is a free agent. So is Joe Thornton. Joonas Donskoi will also be a UFA, and Timo Meier–fresh off what looks to be a career season–is going to be RFA.

The Sharks may be secretly hoping Thornton retires, and maybe a Cup win assures that. Without him, it could still be a trick, as even at Pavelski’s age he’s due a raise from $6M a year. Meier’s raise will be huge. Donskoi’s slightly less. And then you figure Karlsson is looking at Doughty money of $11M or $12M a year. It can be done, but it’s going to be a squeeze.

If there’s a bidding war for EK, it’s hard to figure what kind of years will be acceptable. He will be 29 when he hits the market. His skating doesn’t figure to deteriorate at a rate that will make him a problem for a while, because it’s so far above the mean. But how much can he lose before he can’t dominate? Another team can’t ask him to do everything, but not every team comes with a Vlasic to keep him shielded either. He’s going to want the boat of seven years, but like anything else the last three years of such a deal would be ugly.

Then again, no one else does what he can do.

Could the Hawks swing it? Maybe, though convincing him to come to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in two seasons will take quite the presentation. They could ask Keith and Murphy to simply be the human shield, but neither has proven at this point in time they can handle that level of competition. Could Jokiharju and Murphy do it? The Hawks will have what they hope is Baby Karlsson in Adam Boqvist, so who better to show him the way?

If the Hawks are looking for a quick turnaround though, he makes that far more possible than Artemi Panarin. Maybe you just do it and figure out the rest later.

 

Game #35 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

@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.

 

Game #35 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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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It seems fitting that the Ottawa Senators’ preview would come on the NFL’s opening Sunday, where no one is likely to read this in favor of tabulating fantasy points. Because if anyone even in their own sport were paying attention, or if anyone other than the usual cast of weirdos in the mainstream media gave a fuck about the NHL, how truly terrible this organization has become top to bottom is downright astounding. And it’s going to get a whole fuckload worse before it gets better. Their assistant GM Randy Lee has been fired in the wake of sexual assault charges in Buffalo against a male teenaged hotel employee, their owner Eugene Melnyk is overtly trying to spend as little money as possible in a tank effort, but they can’t even do THAT right as their first round pick in the upcoming draft is going to go to Colorado as part of the Matt Duchene deal, and GM Pierre Dorion had the option at the draft to have it be this year’s instead. Oh, and not to mention that their all universe defenseman is in a walk year, and they had to get pennies on the dollar as the return for Mike Hoffman after his and Erik Karlsson‘s significant others were involved in off ice drama. Not to mention that if they were trying to get to the cap floor, they were absolute fools for not taking on Marian Hoassa’s dead $5+ mildo cap hit against $200K out of pocket, as his $1 million dollar now-illegal salary was 80% insured. It’s an absolute goat fuck on top of a (Canadian) Tire fire.

’17-’18: 28W-43L-11OT 67PTS 221GF 291GA 16.6%PP 76.1%PK 47.20%CF 7.75SH% .9082SV%

Forwards: The aforementioned Duchene is still here in the last year of his deal, as is the productive Mark Stone, and both could bring back a pretty serious yield at some point in the year if Dorion weren’t a complete fucking idiot. Bobby Ryan, aka Bobby Stephenson, son of an attempted murder, has got this year and 3 more left on his ridiculous contract at $7.25 per having failed to even crack 15 goals either of the last two seasons. Keith Tkachuk‘s other Garbage Son Brady was drafted way higher than he needed to be because Brady’s agent is Craig Oster, who is both Brady’s uncle (Keith’s brother in law), and Erik Karlsson’s agent, and will forego the rest of his time at BU to try to make the big club. Past that, the corpses of Marian Gaborik and Mikkel Boedkker are here now, which no one remembers, and Zach Smith (no, the other one) and something called J-G Pageau will still play meaningful minutes in Guy Boucher’s affront to the lord of a trapping system.

Defense: Look, Erik Karlsson is the best defenseman in the world, and will probably command $12-ish million a year, and this team is going nowhere fast. It is literally unfathomable that he has not been traded yet on the eve of training camps opening where his value can be maximized, as every game he wastes for the Senators is one he could be playing for a team that matters in the slightest. And once he’s gone, be it tomorrow, next month, the deadline, or in free agency, the group apart from him is truly dire. Cody Ceci, Chris Wideman, and Mark Borowiecki make up the rest of the top 4 here. Yeah, exactly.

Goaltending: Craig “Brett Saberhagen” Anderson has seemingly vacillated between completely solid and truly putrid seasons since he became a regular starter, and last year’s .898 overall and .902 at evens would suggest he’s due for at least a return to competence, but now at 37 that’s nowhere near a sure thing. If he’s at all solid, he could fetch a decent return even with another year left on his deal, but again, don’t count on Pierre Dorion to properly assess that. Mike Condon is slated to back him up in wholly unspectacular fashion.

Outlook: So grim it is utterly pointless, as this team can’t even tank in the hopes of landing Jack Hughes or whoever else is the consensus top pick by the time the draft comes. There is less than zero reason for this team to even exist right now, as they don’t have, and have never anywhere close to a zealous fanbase. A team that should include its team charter and be contracted when Erik Karlsson gets traded. And having lived through the dark ages here, it is not at all hyperbole to state that this team should be contracted. Its continued existence is a fate worse than death.

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators