Sharks

DeMelo, Hansen scratches should spook Sharks

hansen-demelo-sharks.jpg
USATSI

DeMelo, Hansen scratches should spook Sharks

Halloween is known for its ghost stories, and the Sharks have two of their own: Dylan DeMelo and Jannik Hansen.The pair isn’t haunting San Jose from beyond the grave, but the press box, where they’ve spent the last nine and four games, respectively.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way for either of them.

DeMelo entered the season as the Sharks’ clear-cut sixth defenseman, set to finally get an extended look after spending more time in the press box than on the ice over the previous two seasons. Hansen wasn’t expected to play alongside Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton as he was in the spring, yet was still pencilled in as a bottom-six lock.

Instead, DeMelo’s found himself back in the press box. Fellow right-handed defenseman Tim Heed, with six points in nine games and a role on the top power play unit, has pushed him out of the lineup. An injury on the left side of the depth chart hasn’t helped DeMelo’s cause, either, as head coach Peter DeBoer prefers to keep defensemen on their strong side.

DeBoer’s also tinkered with his bottom-six forward group in pretty much every game. Of third-and-fourth liners that skated in Monday night’s win over Toronto, only three had played in every game: Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi, and Chris Tierney.

It’s hard to blame him. The Sharks entered Tuesday tied for 25th in goal-scoring, and tied for 27th in goal-scoring at five-on-five play. Boedker, Donskoi, and Tierney have scored four, six, and four points, respectively. Hansen’s scored one, and hasn’t been able to crack the lineup.

Depth driving difficult decisions isn’t a bad thing, especially when someone like Heed is playing so well. Still, DeMelo and Hansen’s absences are disappointing. In DeMelo’s case, that’s because this was supposed to be the year he finally carved out a regular role. In Hansen’s, it’s because he was acquired with the top six in mind, and is out of the lineup entirely 28 regular season and playoff games after the Sharks gave up a mid-round draft choice and a former first round pick.

Despite not playing much lately, DeMelo and Hansen are not among the players general manager Doug Wilson is reportedly trying to move, That’s surprising.

Not because they’ll fetch a more significant return than Boedker, Tierney, or Paul Martin, but because the two are fairly movable. Neither DeMelo nor Hansen is signed beyond this season, and they’re making $650,000 and $2,000,000, respectively. Hansen’s contract contains a modified no-trade clause, but his cap hit is easy to swallow for a team in need of forward depth.

DeMelo and Hansen may yet still have roles to play this season. Injuries, and ineffectiveness, can change things in a hurry. Until that happens, though, their respective absences are a bit spooky.

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

jones-khudobin-usatsi.jpg
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.

Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

sharks_bruins_usatsi.jpg

Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.