DeBoer could rest some Sharks for finale; Couture downcast

DeBoer could rest some Sharks for finale; Couture downcast

SAN JOSE – Officially, the Sharks aren’t yet locked into third place in the Pacific Division. But the math says they might as well be.

San Jose has a 97 percent chance of finishing behind both Edmonton and Anaheim, according to, and would therefore start the first round in one of those locales. The Sharks conclude the regular season on Saturday with the Calgary Flames.

Considering the Sharks’ core is among the oldest in the NHL, it might be a good opportunity for coach Pete DeBoer to pull some of his veterans from the lineup and give them some added rest before the playoffs. It’s been a brutal schedule, especially lately, as the Sharks have played 20 games in just 39 days from Feb. 28 through Thursday night.

DeBoer hasn’t ruled out that possibility.

“I don’t think anything is off the table. I think we’ll sit down here in the next day and see,” he said. 

“It’s been a tough month. There’s always that question of whether you want to take someone out of a rhythm, whether you want to rest them. There will be some individual situations we’ll look at.”

The risk, of course, is that if some players do sit, there’s a chance that they will have been off for a complete week by the time the puck drops for Game 1. The Sharks are likely to open on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

Patrick Marleau almost certainly won’t come out, as he has an ongoing iron man streak of 623 games. He understood why rest might be beneficial to some players, though.

“I think everybody’s situation is a little bit different. For some guys who have been playing well and feel like they need their rest, it would be a good opportunity,” he said. 

“For guys who still want to feel like their game gets to another level, they can do that. For guys who feel like that might be too much time off – there’s different situations for everybody.”

Of course, the Sharks don’t have a long list of players currently at a high level. They’ve lost nine of their last 12 games, including Thursday’s 4-2 defeat to Edmonton in which they blew a third period lead. Perhaps trying to button up the details of their game is the best approach.

Regardless of the recent results, or if some guys do end up coming out for the season finale, Marleau is confident the team will be able to put the past five weeks behind it for the playoff opener.

“Definitely. Everybody starts at zero,” he said. “It’s not too hard to start fresh. It’s a brand new season, and that’s the way I think every team is looking at it.”

* * *

Two players that surely won’t be in against the Flames are Joe Thornton (left knee) and Logan Couture (mouth). Thornton did not skate on Friday, while Couture is still not able to take contact.

Couture seemed downcast despite skating again on Friday. He was wearing a full cage rather than the face shield/jaw protector he was sporting earlier in the week, but when asked if that helped him see the puck better, he said: “Not really, no. They both suck. Just trying something different.”

The centerman still has no timeframe to return, and had another visit to the dentist scheduled later Friday.

”I don’t know what they’re going to do, but another trip there,” he said.

How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.  

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.