Sharks

Brazil: The Sharks' dilemma on defense

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Brazil: The Sharks' dilemma on defense

Sept. 12, 2011

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Just how good a job did Sharks GM Doug Wilson do bolstering up his defensive corps this summer? San Jose now has more eligible defensemen than the team can or likely will dress on an every-night basis. Here's how the depth shakes out on the roster:

PLAYER HEIGHTWEIGHT AGE SHOOTS 22 Dan Boyle 5'11", 190lbs 35 Right 61 Justin Braun 6'2", 205lbs 24 right 88 Brent Burns 6'5", 219lbs 26 Right 60 Jason Demers 6'1", 195lbs 23 Right 3 Douglas Murray 6'3", 240lbs 31 Left 2 Jim Vandermeer 6'1", 210lbs 31 Left 44 Marc-Edourard Vlasic 6'1", 200lbs 24 Left 5 Colin White 6'4", 215lbs 33 LeftAnd here's how many predict the pairings will look:Boyle Murray - The perfect example of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. These two have been virtually inseparable partners for the last couple seasons as San Jose's top pair, in terms of ice time and matchups. The offensively enabled Boyle, matched with the defensive minded Murray also offer the variety of one left, and one right handed shot. Camp will sort itself out, but change is not expected with these two.Vlasic Burns - If BoyleMurray are 1, then this pair is likely to be 1A. The newly acquired Burns is everybody's early pick to be paired with Vlasic, for a multitude of reasons.
First: Burns is of similar offensive tendency to Boyle, in jumping into plays and joining the rush. Whereas Vlasic is more likely to stay-at-home, playing a responsible defensive game. This is a nice mix of yin and yang for the new teammates.
Second: You have natural right-and-left defensemen, as the two each shoot from different sides.
Third: Each of these players is tied to multiple year contracts with the Sharks... meaning they have the potential to become long-term partners, which may be a good reason to test their chemistry together, as soon as possible.But here's where it gets dicey... since San Jose isn't likely to dress 7 defensemen on a regular basis, we are left with 4 more quality NHL players... and only 2 positions to be filled in the starting lineup each night.Jason Demers is likely to be a top candidate on the 3rd pair. He had a solid last season, and was truly (and noticeably) missed in the entire Vancouver series after suffering a high ankle sprain against Detroit. Last year, Demers averaged 19:29 per game (9th highest of all skaters), including an average of 2:11 on the Power Play. Colin White would be a good partner for Demers, for all the same reasons we like the previously mentioned pairs... OffensiveDefensive, RightyLefty. He poses intimidating size and strength, which the Sharks have recently needed more of on the blue line. He is also a highly touted and respected veteran who could provide solid mentorship to the up and coming Demers.But it's hard to exclude Jim Vandermeer, a reliable and gritty veteran who in 62 games last year tallied 122 hits and 78 blocked shots with Edmonton. Not to forget super sophomore Justin Braun either, who played in 28 games last year, is a prized right-handed shot, and showed tremendous upside in terms of his NHL potential. Coming into last season, either of these players would have been considered shoe-ins to San Jose's roster, with their current credentials. A good indication of just how thick the competition is this time around.This is the dilemma, but a great one to have for Wilson, and Head Coach Todd McLellan. Too many options will likely prove to be a considerable benefit, when you consider injuries, slumps, and the ruts a team is bound to endure over the course of an 82 game regular season.Follow Brodie in real time on Twitter: @BrodieBrazilCSN

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.