Sharks

Aftermath of Hansen-Goldobin trade shows risks of playing it safe

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AP

Aftermath of Hansen-Goldobin trade shows risks of playing it safe

When the Sharks traded prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a fourth-round pick to the Canucks for Jannik Hansen in February, they thought they were getting a player to put them over the top. 
 
Things didn’t work out entirely as planned, as the Edmonton Oilers eliminated San Jose in the first round, but Hansen was solid enough with seven points in 15 regular season games. He’s struggled to find that form this year.
 
Hansen skated on the third line at Friday’s practice ahead of Saturday’s rematch with his old club, according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, but he’s been surplus to requirements for much of his first full season in San Jose.
 
He was scratched for six consecutive games before re-entering the lineup in Wednesday’s loss to the Lightning, and hasn’t played more than 16 minutes in a game. The latter isn’t much of a concern, as the two-way forward was an acquisition to bolster the team’s depth, but his lone point in eight games this season is. 
 
The Danish forward, then, has been replaceable from night to night, in large part because the Sharks have so many forwards like him. Ryan Carpenter, Barclay Goodrow, and Joel Ward all play the “gritty, versatile” game that drove general manager Doug Wilson to acquire Hansen, and all three have played in Hansen’s absence. 
 
Meanwhile, his counterpart in the trade has also had difficulty cracking the NHL lineup with his new organization, but for vastly different reasons. Goldobin’s offensive ability has never been questioned, but his defensive game has. 
 
“We thought [Goldobin] had an average camp,” Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning told The Province after Goldobin was sent down to their AHL affiliate in Utica. “His three-zone game, his overall game (needs improvement).”
 
So far, the 22-year-old appears to have responded to that message. Ryan Johnson, Vancouver’s director of player development and Utica’s general manager, told Sportsnet 650 this week that he “[sees] the details in his game getting better,” all while Goldobin is ninth in the AHL in scoring with 13 points in 11 games. 
 
It makes one wonder why the Sharks couldn’t have been a little more patient with the former first-round pick. 
 
Goldobin clearly had a long way to go in the eyes of San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer, playing less than 19 minutes combined in two games with the Sharks last season. He may not have been ready to contribute to a team in win-now mode, but his departure left an organization starving for players with offensive upside even hungrier. 
 
Really, the Hansen-Goldobin swap was a neat encapsulation of the skillsets the Sharks value. Two-way responsibility is of the utmost importance, and that’s why San Jose is one of the NHL’s best defensive teams. 
 
But that can come at the expense of high-end skill, and that’s why they’re also one of the league’s lowest-scoring teams hovering around .500. With Goldobin traded, Kevin Labanc in the AHL, and Timo Meier skating in the Sharks’ bottom six, that shouldn’t be a surprise.  
 
When you value safety, you run the risk of failing to stand out. Since the trade, Hansen hasn’t, and neither have the Sharks. 

Five areas that will decide series between the Sharks and Golden Knights

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AP

Five areas that will decide series between the Sharks and Golden Knights

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is all but over, meaning the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights are finally on the verge of facing off in Game 1 of the second round.

Vegas won the regular season series, 3-1, in its inaugural campaign. The nine-point standings margin between the Golden Knights and Sharks is the largest among the second-round matchups, but the teams are far more alike than they might appear.

They both swept their way out of the first round, have red-hot goalies, and finished just 0.16 percent apart in five-on-five corsi-for percentage in the regular season (per Corsica Hockey). Two of four regular season meetings went to overtime, and three of four were decided by a goal.

In a meme, they’re two, wall-crawling web-slingers pointing at one another.

What will ultimately separate San Jose and Vegas in the first-ever playoff meeting between the two? We’ll answer that important question with five more.

Who has the even-strength edge?
In four regular season games, the five-on-five shot attempt, shot, scoring chance, and high-danger chance differentials were as follows: Vegas plus-two, San Jose plus-six, San Jose plus-five, and San Jose plus-two. The Golden Knights outscored the Sharks 9-6 at even strength in regulation, largely on the back of a .942 five-on-five save percentage compared to Martin Jones and Aaron Dell’s .909.

Both team’s starting goaltenders are coming off of historic first rounds, which makes controlling the run of play that much more critical. Whichever team gains an advantage, no matter how small, will move itself closer to advancing.

Will Marc-Andre Fleury falter?
Speaking of historically performing goaltenders: Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is in the midst of his best season as a starter. He missed most of the first two months with a concussion, and ultimately started the fewest games as a No. 1 in his 14-year career.

That may have been a blessing in disguise, because Fleury’s arguably never been fresher at any point in his career. He now has a .935 save percentage (.937 five-on-five, per Corsica Hockey) in his last 19 playoff starts dating back to last season, so don’t necessarily expect Fleury to revert to his past, poor postseason form. If he does, though, the Sharks will have an opening.  

How healthy is Brent Burns?
After not participating in the morning skate ahead of Game 4 last week, and skating before but not during the next two practices, the reigning Norris Trophy-winner returned to practice on Monday. Head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Burns could have played in a potential game on Sunday, but this time of year is as notorious for injuries as it is for the tight lips about their circumstances.

Burns scored a goal in Game 1 and pumped a team-high nine pucks on net, but only got six shots off and assisted on a goal over the next three. He still led the team in five-on-five shot attempts, as well as attempts across all situations, of course, but a healthy Burns represents one of the true points of differentiation between San Jose and Vegas, so his status is worth examining.

When will the Golden Knights power play start finishing?
Since March 30, a game after the Golden Knights scored two power-play goals for the second consecutive contest, they have converted on just two of the last 26 power-play opportunities. One of those was on a five-on-three, as the league’s 11th-best power play has gone drier than the Nevada desert.

Vegas has actually attempted almost 10 more five-on-four shots per hour and generated an additional expected goal per hour in the last nine regular season and playoff games compared to the preceding 73, according to Corsica Hockey. During that time, the expansion club has scored on just over three percent of its five-on-four shots. The Sharks have to be careful not to awake a sleeping giant.

Can the Sharks win in Las Vegas?
Only 12 teams won a game at T-Mobile Arena this season. None repeated the feat, and the Sharks were not one of them. San Jose lost by a goal in both trips to the strip, most recently in March when William Karlsson pulled a ‘Hertl’ and gave the Golden Knights the Pacific Division title.

Both losses came under anomalous circumstances, the first a day after Thanksgiving and the second at the end of a four-games-in-six-days road trip, and the Sharks are thus still searching for their first-ever road win against Vegs. They won’t travel to Sin City under similar duress in the postseason, but will have to win (at least) a game on the road against the Golden Knights in order to advance to the Conference Final.

Sharks to open second round Thursday

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AP

Sharks to open second round Thursday

The Sharks know when they'll open the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. T

San Jose will face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the second round at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 26 in Sin City, the NHL announced Tuesday. The league also announced start dates for the three other second-round series, but did not announce any games beyond that.

Game 2 will "likely" occur Saturday at 5 p.m, according to Golden Knights owner Bill Foley. 

Game 1 will be televised on NBCSN. Sharks Playoff Central will air on NBC Sports California at 6:30 p.m. leading up to puck drop, with a postgame edition to follow after the final horn on the same channel.