Sharks

Boyle was not tempted to sit out

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Boyle was not tempted to sit out

SAN JOSE Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle accidentally let his inner voice become his actual one after Saturdays win against Edmonton, when he revealed in a post-game interview with Sharks radio host Jamie Baker that he had been playing with a broken foot since early November.

I wasnt thinking, he said on Monday of his surprise disclosure. But, Ive been feeling better.

Boyle said he originally hurt the foot blocking his shot against Minnesota on November 10, but didnt want to make any excuses for his play that followed, which featured a whole lot of turnovers and misplays without much scoring.

In fact, after Boyle registered an assist in that game against the Wild, he went the next nine without a single point. He was asked if it was difficult to hear the criticism of his game from fans and media during that stretch.

It is. Its hard. Sometimes when your ego is talking to you, you want to say, hey man, Im bleeping hurt here. Theres an inside voice that wants to say that, but especially hockey players, were kind of conditioned to just kind of turn the other cheek, take your lumps and keep it within.

Was he ever tempted to sit out a game or two?

No no no no. Its just one of those things you can just play your way through it, said Boyle. It definitely hurt my game a little bit. My game is skating, and I was definitely a step behind for many of those games, and a little slower out there. I didnt have the energy or the want to get into the play. Its a factor. But, I dont want to sit here and make excuses.

Todd McLellan wasnt going to tell him to take a night off, either.

Hes played in worse situations and hes a pretty competitive guy. The last thing were going to do is take him out, said the coach. The injury, or an injury, is going to take him out. None of us are.

The foot still isnt completely healed, either, although Boyle is playing some of his best hockey of the season right now. He has four points in his last four games while being paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic as regular partner Douglas Murray recovers from a left hand injury.

Were never really 100 percent, but its significantly better than what it was, said Boyle. It was definitely a problem for awhile, though. Its behind me now, hopefully.

Murray practices: Sharks defensemen Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer both took part in the one hour and fifteen minute skate at Sharks Ice on Monday, and are still on injured reserve with left hand injuries. It was Murrays first full practice with the team since he was hurt on Dec. 3 against Florida.

McLellan said that Murray is, getting better. His legs and his lungs are good because hes done a lot of skating. Same with Vandy. It think theyre both close.

Their status for Wednesday will be determined later in the week.

Colin White, who left Saturdays game against Edmonton after what looked to be a right wrist injury, missed Mondays skate. McLellan expects him to play against the Lightning, though.

Joe Thornton did not skate on Monday with what the team called a maintenance day.

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

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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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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?