Brent Burns, Connor McDavid getting held in check

Brent Burns, Connor McDavid getting held in check

SAN JOSE – When offenses are struggling to produce, attention naturally turns towards the superstars. Edmonton’s attack plainly relied on 100-point scorer Connor McDavid during the regular season, while the Sharks counted on Norris Trophy favorite and leading scorer Brent Burns to dent the scoreboard.

Through the first three games of the Sharks-Oilers first round series, though, neither has done a whole lot. McDavid has been held to one shorthanded goal and a secondary assist on the power play, and has just six shots, while Burns has been kept from the scoresheet completely. 

There have been just eight total goals, with Edmonton, which leads the series two games to one, getting five of them.

“It’s just [the] playoffs. That’s what happens every year, I think,” Burns said. “It’s hard to create.”

At some point, though, Burns will have to find a way to do just that if the Sharks are to have a chance at advancing. In Game 1 he was in top form, generating eight shots on goal and a whopping 18 attempts. In games two and three, though, Burns has been held to a combined five shots and 11 attempts.

The Oilers’ ability to nullify Burns in games two and three is the primary reason why the Sharks haven’t scored in 120 minutes since Melker Karlsson’s overtime winner in Game 1.

What are they doing right?

“I’m sure their coaching staff and everyone scouting, [like] we would do on McDavid, they’ve done on Brent,” partner Paul Martin said. “They know he’s got a great shot and is able to get it through. They’re playing him high and taking away that middle of the ice for those shots, whether they be tipped or to the net, and blocking shots.”

Logan Couture said: “They're doing a good job on our D-men. Obviously they know that our D-men create a lot of offense for us and they shoot the puck a lot. They're playing our D high, and it's three-on-three down low on the forwards, so the forwards have to do a better job of creating offense."

Burns didn’t express any frustration on Monday after an optional practice.

“That’s the fun part, is earning it and going through that,” he said. “This is the time you want to play. It’s fun. Every game is so tight, and one bounce – it’s working to create that bounce. That’s why it’s fun.”

While the Sharks need more offense, whether it’s from Burns or elsewhere, they’ll attempt to keep doing what they’ve been doing against McDavid. The unparalleled bursts of speed often seen from the 20-year-old haven’t been nearly as numerous as they were during the regular season, especially late when McDavid posted a 14-game point streak headed into his first career playoff run.

Martin mentioned the obvious objective of keeping McDavid in his defensive end, but when he has the puck, the Sharks are “trying to clog the middle with him there. Our D have been doing a good job of managing the puck. If we were turning the puck over…the more we give him the more chances he’s going to make something good happen.”

DeBoer was coy when asked what the Sharks have done to limit McDavid’s chances.

“I’ll tell you after the series is over, if we can keep doing it. That’s a big if,” he quipped.

It could very well be that the first team that gets more from its biggest star will end up advancing to the second round. 

If McDavid breaks out in Game 4, it could be curtains on the Sharks’ season. If Burns is able to replicate his Game 1 performance, though, and maybe get a few fortunate bounces that never came that night, the Sharks will reclaim the momentum.

Burns said: “I think both teams are playing really tight. … You’ve just got to work for those bounces and stay confident. And pray to the hockey gods, I guess.”

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play has been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it. 

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win


SAN JOSE -- Jannik Hansen scored his first goal of the season and fellow fourth-liners Eric Fehr and Barclay Goodrow also scored to help the San Jose Sharks win their season-high fifth straight game, 6-2 over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture added his 30th goal of the season, and Joe Pavelski and Mikkel Boedker also scored to give the Sharks a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.

Brent Burns added three assists and Martin Jones made 26 saves.

The scoring barrage by San Jose spoiled Cory Schneider's return to net for the Devils. Schneider allowed four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled midway through the second period of his first start since March 8. Schneider has lost 11 starts in a row since his last win for the Devils on Dec. 27.

Taylor Hall scored his 32nd goal of the season and Blake Coleman also scored for the Devils, who lead Florida by just one point in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have two games in hand.

After Hansen and Fehr scored in the first period, Goodrow chipped one in midway through the second period on a surprising night of scoring from the fourth line when he beat Schneider on a 2-on-1.

Couture then scored 40 seconds later on San Jose's first shot against Keith Kinkaid for his third career 30-goal season. Boedker added San Jose's second power-play goal of the night late in the second and the rout was on.

The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first game back from a 3-0 Canadian road trip, scoring three goals in the first period and killing 1:20 of a two-man advantage for New Jersey.

The teams traded goals to start with Fehr beating Schneider over the shoulder from a bad angle and Hall answering when he stole a bouncing puck from Justin Braunand beat Jones with a quick shot.

San Jose then scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead. Pavelski tipped in a shot from Kevin Labanc on the power play to give the Sharks the lead.

Then after Jones denied Damon Severson from in close at one end, Dylan DeMelo sent a long pass that Hansen chased down and then beat Schneider on a breakaway for his first goal since March 30, 2017.

NOTES: DeMelo has 10 assists this month. ... San Jose D Brenden Dillon has a five-game point streak. ... Devils F Miles Wood (upper body) was scratched and Jesper Bratt played in his place.


Devils: Visit Pittsburgh on Friday.

Sharks: Host Vegas on Thursday.