Sharks

49ers notes: Miami native Gore reveals his true colors

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49ers notes: Miami native Gore reveals his true colors

SANTA CLARA – He may be a native of Miami, and even played his college ball for the Hurricanes, but San Francisco running back Frank Gore actually grew up rooting for the team with which he currently plays right now.

Why was he a 49ers fan as a kid?

“They was winning. They were a good team,” the 29-year-old Gore said on Tuesday, from the team’s practice facility.

He’ll get a chance to go up against the Dolphins on Sunday when the Niners try to rebound from Sunday’s disappointing 16-13 overtime defeat in St. Louis. Gore, too, will look to put that game in the rear view mirror on a personal level, after gaining just 58 yards on a season-high 23 carries for just 2.5 yards-per-carry.

“They had eight or nine men in the box. They played good defense. They’ve got a great D-line, their linebackers played good,” Gore said of the Rams. “They did a great job.”

The game will mark the first meeting between San Francisco and Miami since Dec. 14, 2008, and first at Candlestick Park since Nov. 28, 2004.

Gore would actually prefer the game was being played in South Florida, after he missed what would have been a homecoming four years ago with an ankle injury.

“I wish we could have played them down there, that would have been special, in front of all my fans in Miami and [where] a lot of my family is from,” he said. “All my Hurricane fans, they probably miss me.”

* * *

Gore was asked about rookie running back LaMichael James, who could see his first action in a 49ers uniform on Sunday after he was drafted in the second round by the team this past April.

Gore, who is happy to act as a mentor to the young and speedy James, has seen improvement in the 23-year-old since he first laid eyes on in the summer.

“He got better in small spaces,” Gore said. “You watch his film in college, it’s a lot of big spaces. In the NFL it’s different. Early on, he had a tough time with that, but now from when I first saw him, he got a lot better at that.”

Gore stressed to James that patience is a virtue when running the football in the NFL.

“When you’re getting the ball it ain’t about how fast you go, it’s penetration, how fast you can get through. When he used to get the ball he used to just use his speed. I told him you’ve got to let things develop, be patient. When you see it, that’s when you be fast through the hole,” Gore said.

The 49ers are searching for someone to fill the role left by the injured Kendall Hunter, who acted as a change of pace to Gore’s bruising style. In Sunday’s game in St. Louis, Brandon Jacobs, who employs a similar style to Gore, was the only other back to get the ball. Jacobs rushed four times for just six yards.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the team’s leading rusher with 84 yards on nine carries, including a 50-yarder in which Gore delivered a key block.

“Whatever it takes to have successful play to win and I’m a part of it, I’m with it,” Gore said of his block.

* * *

The 49ers know as well as anyone that regular season records get thrown out the window once the playoffs begin. After finishing the regular season 13-3 a year ago, they fell to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game. The Giants, after a 9-7 regular season, went on to defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers stressed that the team needs to finish the regular season strong. After Miami, the 49ers close out with games against New England, Seattle and Arizona.

“It’s really important to finish the quarter strong. We talk about four quarters. This is the last quarter,” Rogers said.

“The teams that do good in the playoffs, at the end of November and December they’re kind of clicking and kind of get going. That’s what’s we’ve got to do. We can’t come into the playoffs with losses like last weekend, not hitting on all cylinders. You see the example with New York, everybody counted them out, and they ended up hitting it at this point last year, and ended up winning the Super Bowl. We’ve got to follow that same path.”

Miami is just 5-7 this season, but has already secured wins against St. Louis and Seattle – one club which has beaten the Niners (St. Louis), and another that gave them a tough battle earlier this season in Seattle, which lost 13-6 to the 49ers on Oct. 18.

“I know they’re a pretty good team,” Rogers said of the Dolphins. “They’ve had their ups and downs but the team is growing: new coaches, new players, and a team that’s coming together. There’s no team that we’re going to take lightly, regardless of what their record is, and we’ll just try to get the W.”

 

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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USATSI

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now. 

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

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USATSI

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought?