Sharks

Desjardins thriving after benching

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Desjardins thriving after benching

SAN JOSE The biggest challenge for any first year NHL player is maintaining focus and energy over the grueling 82-game schedule.

Andrew Desjardins is no different. The undrafted rookie, who made the opening night roster after being far from a sure thing to do so in training camp, has had his ups and downs in his first full season in the pros. It began with a bang, when he scored two goals in a 6-3 opening night victory over Phoenix way back on Oct. 8.

It took 69 games the number on the back of his jersey for him to double that output, when he found the back of the net against Colorado in the second period on Monday. His fourth goal of the season turned out to be the game-winner, and was the third time in as many games that his line, along with Daniel Winnik and Tommy Wingels, found the scoresheet.

I thought Desis line was probably the best line all night, Joe Thornton said after the Sharks 5-1 win. They played hard, worked hard, and were always around the puck.
RECAP: Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado
Thats our job, get the momentum back and keep the momentum going, said Desjardins, who signed with the club as a free agent in June, 2010. Thats obviously what were trying to do. It seems like were turning over pucks and were doing the right things, so we just want to keep moving forward and doing those things.

The coaching staff likely aided Desjardins recent resurgence and drive at the beginning of the month. He was a healthy scratch for the first three games in March, and the thinking was that the rookie may have hit a wall and lost his spot in the lineup. After all, center Dominic Moore was brought in from Tampa Bay, and Michal Handzus, despite a disappointing season, still can provide a steady and veteran presence on many nights.

Todd McLellan thought Desjardins, who suffered a concussion against Columbus on Jan. 14 after a violent shot to the head from the Blue Jackets Dane Byers, needed a break.

It got away on him, and he got hurt at one point in Columbus with the elbow to the head, and I think from that point on, it took him a little while to get going again, McLellan said. He was reminded he was important but didnt play a few nights, and now hes giving us some of his best hockey of the season when we need it.

Desjardins reflected on his time spent watching from the sidelines as a healthy scratch.

It teaches you or shows you that you have to do the right things, and do them every night. It definitely puts you in your spot and makes you stronger, and to not take things for granted, I guess.

Although he missed two games after the head injury in mid-January, Desjardins was thrown right back into the fire when he returned. Ryane Clowe, Tommy Wingels and Marty Havlat were all out of the lineup, and McLellan decided to plug Desjardins on the wing of the Thornton line for a stretch. In fact, Desjardins played more than 10 minutes in each of his first seven games after the injury, recording four assists.

The coaching staffs belief in Desjardins helped the players confidence, too, according to McLellan.

Thats where his season really evolved. You could see that he got confident at that point and blossomed a little bit more, said the coach. He really believed that he belonged.

Now, hes showing why. Desjardins seems to have settled in with Wingels and Winnik since the former returned from an upper body injury three games ago, and the coach is rewarding that trio with more and more ice time. All three played more than 15 minutes in the win against Colorado.

Its too early for Desjardins to think about personal success or what hes achieved in his brief career so far, though.

Im never satisfied. Im always trying to grow, he said. It comes down to more of a team thing now, where its just the next few games. We have to just keep going at it.

I havent really thought of it at all on a personal level at this point. Usually I wait until the end of the year. Im just trying to focus on doing what I have to do and help the team win right now.

Spoken like a true veteran.

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.