Hockey

vs.

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.

Hockey

Over the summer, the Sharks made a pretty big call. Their usual M.O. has been to just strip their captain of the position when their season flamed out before they felt it should. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both felt the sting of that particular whip, with the former taking over for the latter and then Joe Pavelski taking it from Jumbo Joe. And then everyone would pretend everything was fine, in true Canadian fashion.

This time around, the Sharks just let their captain toddle off somewhere else. In order to fit other salaries and make room for some more kids, the Sharks let Pavelski walk to Dallas, and bestowed the “C” onto Logan Couture. It has been an ill-fit, shall we say.

Couture has been the biggest example of how the old and not-all-that-quick Sharks have struggled to recover from their long playoff run last year. Whereas last season you could argue they were only undone by the league’s worst goaltending, because the rest of their measurements were some of the league’s best. If they’d even had representative goaltending, they probably walk out of the Western Conference last year. And we’ll never forgive them for not doing so and saddling us with this cloud of despair.

The question-existence-entirely goaltending is still there, but the dominant process has gone away with it. The Sharks don’t have the puck nearly as much as they did, they aren’t creating as much as they did, they give up a whole lot more than they did, and Couture is at the center of it.

Couture has been crossed by some fiendish PDO treachery. He’s shooting below 7% at evens and 3% overall. But he’s also not getting to the spots he used to that would drive that shooting-percentage up dramatically to career norms. His shots per 60 are down a third at evens, his attempts down a quarter, and his individual expected-goals are half of what they were last year. Throw in the power play time and things look better, and that 3% number will go up. But the Sharks need serious help at evens and he’s not providing it.

His possession numbers stink, too. Couture has always been something of a high-event player, but he mostly kept those events to the other end even if he was on the ice for a decent amount of attempts and chances against. You live with decent amount against when a player gets a ton for. Well, the second part hasn’t happened this season, and now Couture is just a player who’s on the ice for a lot of chances against. Not good.

How much of this is due to the absence of Pavelski? Couture has seen him replaced with Patrick Marleau for the most part, who just might be clinically dead. Timo Meier is still the main running buddy, as he was with Pavelski and Couture last year. So if only on that limited evidence, Pavelski has been a big miss (and while Pavelski’s individual numbers in Dallas are down, his overall possession numbers are still very good).

So far this year, Couture has only found success with Tomas Hertl, but the Sharks would be bunching up their two biggest threats that way as well as weakening themselves down the middle, which has almost always been their strength. Joe Thornton isn’t taking on #2 center assignments at age 93. Quite simply, the Sharks aren’t as deep as they once were and they don’t have enough wingers to go around.

Perhaps as the year progresses, a couple of their kids can step up like Lean Bergmann or Dylan Gambrell. But it seems like an awfully big ask for neophytes to immediately take roles for what’s supposed to be a Cup contender. The Sharks might have to swing another trade, which will only kneecap their future even further.

The Sharks were always a bit up against it given their collective age. They don’t have one core piece under 30, other than Meier and Hertl. The kids haven’t caught up. But they couldn’t have expected it to catch up this quickly, and neither could Couture. But yet, here they are.

Hockey

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?

2018-2019

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.

Everything Else

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).

Cue faceplant.

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.

 

 

Everything Else

vs.

SCHEDULE

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. 

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.

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

Anaheim Ducks

Arizona Coyotes

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

L.A. Kings

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.

Game #77 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

In about five years, if you’re not already, we’re all going to look back and just wonder how in the hell the Sharks ever came out of the West. It was the perfect storm for them I suppose, as the bottom dropped out on pretty much every other team that had kept them down for so long and they were able to rise by standing still. It might be as good as things get for the Sharks for a while. Teams aren’t supposed to be completely handcuffed by the departure of a 35-year-old, one-dimensional scorer. It’s the kind of thing you buttress your team against. And yet, here the Sharks are, still holding a bouquet of flowers for Patrick Marleau in the rain, unaware that they’ve completely wilted now and wondering just where their love went. And it hasn’t allowed them to come up with too many answers otherwise either.

San Jose Sharks

’16-’17 Record: 46-29-7  99 points (3rd in Pacific, coldcocked by Oilers in Round 1)

Team Stats 5v5: 51.1 CF% (8th)  51.8 SF% (4th)  51.4 SCF% (9th)  7.8 SH% (14th)  .924 SV% (12th)

Special Teams: 16.6 PP% (25th)  80.6 PK% (16th)

Everything Else

salsa shark vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency: Fear The Fin

Due to a fortunate bit of scheduling, the Capades’ stand at the United Center coincided with the NHL All Star game, and as a result the Hawks’ only played four games away from the West Side in their 16 days since last being at home. And they’ll do so tonight against the Sharks, a team no one can figure out what exactly it is they’re doing.