Boyle: Put the red line back in


Boyle: Put the red line back in

PROGRAMMING ALERT: The Sharks and Lightning drop the puck at 4:30 on Comcast SportsNet California, followed by Sharks Postgame Live.

TAMPA Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle held court after Wednesdays skate at the Lightnings practice facility, and a conversation about his offensive production took an interesting turn.

The gist of it was simple: Boyle thinks the red line, removed for the purposes of allowing two-line passes after the NHLs work stoppage in 2004-05, has hurt offensive production league-wide when it was supposed to help.

You look around, and most games are low scoring games. I still dont particularly like the way the game is being played, Boyle said. What are you going to do? I just think the neutral zone is pretty bad. Most teams just are content just getting the puck in the other zone. Theres not a lot of plays being made through the neutral zone.

Im not a big fan of the red line being taken out. I think it takes away offense. Guys can make the long play now and just flip their blade over and have the puck go in, and its not icing. Putting the red line back in is probably something that could change the game, but I dont see that being changed any time soon.

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In his 13th NHL season, the 35-year old Boyles voice carries as much weight as anyone in the Sharks locker room. He won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, the last season before the red line was removed, and is a two-time NHL All-Star.

Boyle played in Sweden the year of the lockout, in the wider European rinks. There, ice surfaces measure 200 x 100 feet as opposed to the 200 x 85 measurements used in the NHL.

Could that help generate more offense?

Having played in Europe the lockout year, Im going to tell you right now that getting bigger rinks is not the answer, Boyle said. There was significantly less offense playing in Europe.

I asked Boyle if he had the Tampa Bay Lightning specifically in mind, as their 1-3-1 defensive style and lack of an aggressive forecheck was infamously exposed by the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season.

No, the whole league is copy cat. The Lightning play a little bit differently," Boyle said. "I just dont think theres as many skilled plays as there used to be. Its more of a grinding type game. Everybody is blocking shots like crazy now, more than five or six years ago.

It is what it is.

Boyle may be onto something. According to the Montreal Gazette, scoring in the NHL is down for the third straight season. When asked if the so-called dead puck era has returned, the Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin told the Gazette: "For sure. You look at every game now in the Western Conference. They're extremely tight and there aren't a lot of scoring chances."

Sedin continued: "It's been going on for a few years, actually, but especially this year. There are a lot of these kind of games. That's what people have to realize. It's not like it was two or three years ago."

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes


Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

Kevin Labanc’s first period goal in the Sharks’ Sunday win over the Ducks certainly didn’t look like it was just his fifth of the season, or only his third since opening night.

The 22-year-old, sprung in alone on a breakaway, sold Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on a fake shot with a leg kick, and snapped the puck past him into the top corner. You know a ‘goal-scorers goal’ when you see it, and you saw it 3:38 into the second period.

Labanc not only broke a 12-game, month-long goalless drought, but picked up his third point in as many games after scoring zero in his previous six. Despite his emergence as a force on the power play, all three points came during five-on-five play.

He’s generated six scoring chances in five-on-five situations in his last three games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s as many as Labanc accounted for in the six games preceding this run.

The same can be said about his five-on-five shot attempts (seven) and high-danger chances (two). His six shots on goal in his last three games are just one shy of also matching his five-on-five output over his six games prior.

In those categories, Labanc ranks third, third, and tied for second among Sharks forwards, as well as third in five-on-five scoring chances. He’s also tied with Mikkel Boedker for the forward-lead in five-on-five points over the last three games, despite playing only the eighth-most five-on-five minutes.

As Labanc’s broken out of an extended slump, so have the Sharks. Since returning from the bye week on Jan. 13, San Jose is fifth in five-on-five scoring rate (3.1 goals for/60 minutes), compared to 28th before their bye (1.91).

They’re also 5-1-0 during that time.

The Sharks, much like Labanc, were too reliant upon power play production prior to the NHL-mandated week off. Over half of Labanc’s points came with (at least) a man advantage, and 32 of San Jose’s 108 were scored on the power play.

Since, the second-year forward has only scored five-on-five points, while only five of the Sharks’ 23 goals were power play tallies. The power play’s still converting, but it’s not been the sole driver of San Jose’s offense.

It’s only a six-game sample, but the early five-on-five, post-bye week returns are promising for Labanc and the Sharks. The next step for both is to maintain that pace.

If Labanc and San Jose can, the Sharks may not need to shop for a top-six winger at the trade deadline after all.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.