Burns getting his points, but other Sharks d-men are not

Burns getting his points, but other Sharks d-men are not

SAN JOSE – Brent Burns has resumed his place among the NHL’s highest scoring defensemen. His nine points (3g, 6a) puts him first among all blueliners, and ties him for second overall in the league scoring race with six others.

For the rest of the Sharks’ defense corps, though, the points haven’t been there just yet. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s overtime score on Tuesday was the first goal by a Sharks defenseman that employs the use of a razor on a regular basis, while he and the four others on the back end have combined for just three assists in seven games.

While that lack of production is reflected in the team’s goals-per game average – 2.26, 26th in the NHL – coach Pete DeBoer isn’t all that concerned. He attributes it more to being unlucky than anything else.

“We’ve put a lot of pressure on the other team five-on-five. The puck has bounced, or we just haven’t finished,” DeBoer said. “We’re getting some chances. Most nights we’re out-chancing the other team, and usually that’s a formula for success for us.”

The Sharks have been a strong team in terms of possession, as the coach indicated. They are averaging 32.4 shots per game, fourth in the NHL, and are second in the NHL in shot attempt percentage in close games (56.3 percent).

Still, they could have more. Vlasic, Justin Braun, David Schlemko, Paul Martin and Brenden Dillon have a combined 51 shots on goal, but they’ve also had 48 attempts that have been blocked. In fact, Braun and Martin both have had more attempts blocked than have that made it through to the goalie.

“Five-on-five we haven’t really been getting the tips or the dirty goals around the net that come off shots, but that starts with us getting it through,” said Braun, who has seven shots, but 12 that have been blocked. “The more shots we can get towards the net the better chance we’ll have for the forwards to bang some home, and go from there.”

David Schlemko is also scoreless through seven games, but he managed six shots against the Ducks on Tuesday and has 17 for the year (with 13 blocked). Other than Burns, he’s been the Sharks’ most effective defenseman at getting the puck through.

Brenden Dillon (nine shots, eight blocked) and Paul Martin (five shots, 10 blocked) have one assist each.

Martin indicated that it gets harder and harder every year to get shots through, as more teams commit to getting in lanes. The Sharks also make it a point to put the puck on Burns’ stick as much as they can, considering how much of a weapon he is. Both are factors in those low point totals.

“A lot of times we key on making sure that [Burns] gets the puck. But teams do a better job each year at getting in lanes and blocking shots and fronting pucks and packing it in [around the net],” Martin said. “It’s harder to get pucks through to the net than it used to be.”

The primary role of the defense, of course, is to defend. Except for some notable lapses against the Rangers and Red Wings, the Sharks have been doing that fairly well, holding the opposition to just 24.9 shots per game, second in the NHL.

As long as they keep that up, and Burns continues to produce, the Sharks will be in a good position to win on a nightly basis.

“We’re defending well,” DeBoer said. “That’s our team defense, and that starts with us controlling the play, playing in the other team’s end [and] putting pressure on the other team. I think that’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on all the way back to the beginning of last year.”

Sharks on longest winning streak since 2013 after extinguishing Flames


Sharks on longest winning streak since 2013 after extinguishing Flames


SAN JOSE -- Evander Kane scored twice to give him six goals in his past two games against Calgary and the San Jose Sharks won their seventh straight game, beating the Flames 5-1 on Saturday.

Kane followed up his four-goal performance in Calgary a week ago with another impactful performance, scoring a short-handed goal in the second period to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead and an insurance goal in the third. He also used his physical play to get into a scrum with Mikael Backlund and a fight with Travis Hamonic.

The Sharks improved to 10-2 since acquiring Kane just before the trade deadline last month, including this current streak that is the longest for San Jose since a seven-gamer from March 25 to April 5, 2013.

Brenden DillonJannik Hansen and Justin Braun also scored for the Sharks, who moved six points ahead of Los Angeles in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings played later Saturday in Edmonton. Martin Jones made 37 saves.

Michael Stone scored the lone for the Flames, who have lost five straight to fall out of the playoff race. Calgary trails Anaheim by nine points for the final playoff spot with just six games remaining. David Rittich made 28 saves.

The Flames were controlling the play in the second period before Kane's goal turned the momentum back in San Jose's favor. Calgary held San Jose without a shot on goal for more than six minutes to start the period and had just started a power play when Kane struck for his goal.

Chris Tierney skated into the offensive zone and held the puck near the net as Johnny Gaudreau skated past Kane, who was set up in front of the crease. Tierney then slid a pass to Kane, who knocked it into the open net for his sixth goal with the Sharks and 26th on the season.

Kane then had his run-ins with the Flames late in the second and early in the third before the Sharks broke it open with goals from Braun and Kane midway through the third period.

Dillon, who assisted on Kane's second goal, then got into a fight late in the game with Garnet Hathaway to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.

The Sharks started fast and scored twice in a span of 74 seconds midway through the first period. San Jose took advantage of a turnover by Calgary in the offensive zone to go on a rush. Timo Meier fed Chris Tierney, who gave a behind-the-back pass to Dillon, who beat Rittich from the high slot.

The Sharks kept the pressure up and quickly added to the lead when Hansen redirected Brent Burns' point shot off defenseman Mark Jankowski's skate and into the Calgary net.

The Flames got one back with a blast from the point through traffic by Stone.

NOTES: The Sharks honored Jonathan Cheechoo, who recently announced his retirement. ... Burns' assist on Hansen's goal was his 49th of the season, breaking the record he set two years ago for Sharks defensemen. ... Flames F Matthew Tkachuk (upper body) and D TJ Brodie did not make the trip for the two games in California.


Flames: Visit Los Angeles on Monday

Sharks: Visit Chicago on Monday.

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is.