Sharks

Could the Sharks and Senators make deal at trade deadline?

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AP

Could the Sharks and Senators make deal at trade deadline?

When the San Jose Sharks face off with the Ottawa Senators Friday, they’ll play a team in the midst of an eight-month free-fall. In May, the Senators were a Game 7 overtime win away from a berth in the Stanley Cup Final.
 
Entering Friday, they’re 13 points out of playoff spot. 
 
Ottawa’s lost six of its last seven games, and the rumor mill is abuzz that Senators general manager Pierre Dorion will dismantle his club ahead of the trade deadline. Winger Mike Hoffman is among the players available, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, and the low-scoring Sharks should take notice. 
 
Since 2014-15, only 21 players have scored more goals than Hoffman. He’s only scored nine goals in 38 games this season, but is likely due for some serious regression to the mean.
 
Hoffman’s only scored on seven percent of his shots this season, compared to 12.3 percent over the last three seasons. He’s actually shooting a career-high 3.37 shots per game, and is due for a scoring spike once his finishing catches up to his shot volume.
 
He’d also add to an already-lethal power play. Hoffman has 17 power play goals since the beginning of last season, ninth-most in the league.
 
Unlike most other trade deadline options, Hoffman has significant term left on his contract. He’s signed until 2020, at a cap hit of just under $5.2 million, and would fit into San Jose medium-term salary structure. 
 
What would it take to get a deal done? As The Athletic’s Craig Custance noted on Thursday, the Senators do not pick until the third round of this year’s draft. 
 
His colleague, Pierre LeBrun, observed on Friday that the Sharks are without picks in the second and third rounds of the draft. Friedman reported that the Senators are intrigued by the St. Louis Blues forward prospects, while San Jose isn’t willing to part with young players like Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and Joakim Ryan, and they don’t have an exceptional prospect pool.
 
There’s also the issue of Hoffman’s no-trade clause, as he can’t be traded to a list of 10 teams he provides to the Senators. Plus, he also has a history against the Sharks, cross-checking Logan Couture in the head last season and prompting Couture to tell reporters  he “[hoped Hoffman] gets suspended.”
 
San Jose managed to integrate Raffi Torres into their locker room, and he had a much dirtier past against the Sharks than Hoffman. The no-trade clause (if they’re on his list), plus San Jose’s shallow cupboard of prospects, present much realer hurdles. 
 
They’ll get a good look at Hoffman on Friday night, and a better sense of whether those hurdles are worth overcoming. There’s no question he’d help the Sharks, as long as the price is right. 

Five things to ponder when thinking about the Sharks' sweep of the Ducks

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AP

Five things to ponder when thinking about the Sharks' sweep of the Ducks

Round 1 can be summed up this simply for San Jose: The Sharks generally got better as the series progressed, while the Ducks further unraveled with each outing.

The biggest exception to that was Game 4, where in spurts, you could see Anaheim start to play the style they should have presented all along.  Skating the puck into the offensive zone instead dumping, getting possession established behind San Jose’s cage to set up scoring opportunities in front of Martin Jones, and most importantly - showing defensive discipline and taking far less penalties.  

But as the saying goes, “too little, too late." San Jose answered with a clutch coach’s challenge, and series clinching goal from Tomas Hertl.

In true Las Vegas fashion, I’m doubling down on my motto entering the playoffs: Expect the unexpected.

1) Martin Jones stopped 128 of the 132 Ducks shots he faced.

I could conclude my observations right here.  When you allow just four goals in four games, you’re probably getting three wins at the minimum.  However with the Sharks offense pouring in 16 goals over 12 periods, there was plenty of “run support” for Jones.  I’ll take it a step further and remind you that two of the four Ducks scores came on the power play, and I generally let the goalie off the hook for those.  Hard to pick an MVP with such wide-ranging contributions in this first round, but nobody would deny it going to Martin.

2) San Jose’s 4th line was the x-factor in the series, and Marcus Sorensen was a standout.

The smallest player on the Sharks ended the round on a three-game goal streak.  Whether it was his early equalizer in Game 2, his momentum gaining breakaway finisher in Game 3, or his tone-setting conversion in Game 4 — Sorensen scored some incredibly timely tallies for the club.  And it wasn’t just him, there were important contributions from Eric Fehr and Melker Karlsson over the course of the series, too.  Pete DeBoer has found incredible chemistry with his forward lines into the first few playoff games, top to bottom.  And this established depth is something we remember being very critical to that Cup Final run of two seasons ago.

3) The Sharks coaching staff should be credited with a goal in Game 4.

It was a rough second period for the Sharks.  They got out-shot 14-7, and took three minor penalties.  The last one came with a minute left, meaning that Anaheim would get about 60 seconds of advantage to end the period, then another 60 seconds with fresh legs and fresh ice to begin the 3rd period.  With time ticking down before 2nd intermission, Ryan Getzlaf buried a puck about one second after the clock had expired.  No goal.  Then at :27 seconds into the 3rd period, Rickard Rakell blasted one past Jones, except - Pete DeBoer challenged Anaheim’s entry into the zone, which turned out to be offside.  No goal again.  My math tells me preventing a goal is equally important to scoring one.  So in a 2-1 final score, the Sharks bench and coaching staff should be credited for catching what they saw.  And making the bold move (risking a minor penalty) to issue the challenge.

4) Pacing for the playoff marathon, not a sprint.

The best thing about San Jose sweeping is not even handing four straight losses to a SoCal rival.  Although wow, nobody is complaining about the bragging rights it brings.  It’s actually the efficiency of exerting yourself as few times as possible while advancing to the next round.  One thing we learned in the run of 2016, was the physical and mental toll an extra 24 games brough.  If it took San Jose 6 to eliminate Anaheim, that’s 6 more periods of risk, wear, and tear.  When you put yourself in position to end rounds quickly, you MUST capitalize.  Playing into mid-June becomes a battle against physical attrition.  Might as well play your cards well early.

5) Who is the underdog between San Jose and Las Vegas in Round 2?

Here’s a fancy fact: This will be (only) the eighth time that two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while each sweeping their prior opponent to advance.  On the Sharks side, it’s a group that has generally been together for years of playoff runs.  They have tons of experiences, both wining and losing as a group.  A total of 89 playoff games since 2010 alone.  With Las Vegas, you have many individuals with postseason experiences, but, certainly nowhere near the same level of experience (four games) together under the Golden Knights banner.  Naturally, you’d have to expect the pundits to favor the Golden Knights.  They won the division.  They are a storybook team.  Who are the Sharks to interfere with inaugural-season-destiny?   Pete DeBoer said he knew they “weren’t a mirage” after playing them head-to-head the day after Thanksgiving.  But if you’re the Sharks, gladly give the title of “favorites” to Las Vegas, and all the pressure it comes with.

Playing some of the best hockey of his career, Martin Jones seals Sharks' sweep of Ducks

Playing some of the best hockey of his career, Martin Jones seals Sharks' sweep of Ducks

SAN JOSE -- As the clock ticked towards the end of the second period, Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry gathered the puck on his backhand for his golden opportunity. The veteran forward had not scored all series, and seemed sure to end his drought and tie the game with a power play tally in Game 4 Wednesday night.

But Martin Jones was in the way.

“[Perry] was pretty tight to the net,” Jones said. “He didn’t have any room, so I just tried to take away the bottom of the net there.”

The Sharks goaltender kicked out his right pad, and smothered the shot for his 23rd save of the night, his 121st of the postseason at that point, preserving a one-goal lead. He made seven more in the third period, and led San Jose to a first-round sweep of its division rivals.

His team was outshot 31-17 after fourth-line forward Marcus Sorensen opened the scoring 5:43 into the contest.

“Well, I’m happy he’s on my side,” Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic deadpanned when asked what he thought as Jones made save after save in the second period.

“He’s part of our team. He’s doing his job, keeping us in it. He’s played really well the first four games [of the playoffs.]”

Jones relented for the first, and only, time all game when Andrew Cogliano tied the game for the Ducks with just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation. After Jones carried them for most of the last two games, his teammates responded in kind.

Tomas Hertl’s deflection trickled through John Gibson’s legs and into his net to take back the lead just 1:16 later. The Czech forward checkmated Anaheim, and Jones faced only three additional shots afterward.

Hertl and San Jose would not have been in position to do so without Jones’ play in net.

“[Jones] was excellent,” head coach Peter DeBoer said. “For sure both games [in San Jose], without him it would be different results. Even [an 8-1 win in Game 3] definitely isn’t an 8-1 game if he doesn’t show up and play the way he does.

“But, he’s a big part of our team, and has been for a long time and has been doing that for a long time for us. That’s something that we rely on and take for granted.”

Jones struggled for stretches during the regular season, and dealt with an undisclosed injury ahead of the All-Star break. His five-on-five save percentage (.915) was the lowest of his career as a starter, according to Corsica Hockey. He was excellent on the penalty kill, though, posting a four-on-five save percentage (.900) that ranked 10th among goalies that played a minimum of 100 shorthanded minutes.

The latter part of his carried over into the first round against the Ducks, as Jones stopped all but two of the 21 shots he faced on the penalty kill, including all six on Wednesday. Jones really improved five-on-five, however, as Cogliano’s goal was just the second even-strength tally he allowed all series.

His five-on-five save percentage (.979) this postseason is, according to Natural Stat Trick, better than every goaltender but one: Marc-Andre Fleury (.990) of the Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose’s opponent in the second round.

Jones, of course, is no stranger to big-time playoff moments. He was San Jose’s best player in a six-game loss in the first round to the Edmonton Oilers last year, and nearly single-handedly kept the Sharks alive in the Stanley Cup Final the year prior.

And yet, somehow, this might be the best stretch of his career in the postseason. He’s never stopped a higher a percentage of shots in a series than he did against the Ducks.

The Sharks will need him to continue to be at his best against a Golden Knights squad that also swept a SoCal opponent, the Los Angeles Kings, out of the first round.

“[Vegas is] a fast team,” Jones said. “They come at you with all four lines. They forecheck hard.

“They’re a tenacious, hard-working team so we need to make sure we’re preparing properly here and ready to go right from the start of Game 1 because they don’t give you any room to breath really. They come at you hard.”

And Jones will be there stand in their way.