Evaluating the Sharks one-third into the season

Evaluating the Sharks one-third into the season

TORONTO – The Sharks have played 28 games – 14 at home, and 14 on the road – as they get set for the final stretch before Christmas break. There is reason to believe the team is again set up well to compete for another Western Conference championship, but there are also a few concerns.

Let’s take a closer look, with one-third of the regular season in the books.

Defense first

The Sharks sit 11th overall in the NHL in points percentage (.589) primarily due to their defensive play. They are tied for third in the NHL allowing just 2.18 goals per game, and are giving up the second-fewest shots per game (26.3). 

For the most part they’ve been able to dress the same six defensemen on a nightly basis, led by Norris Trophy candidate Brent Burns, who leads the team with 12 goals and is tied for the scoring lead with Joe Pavelski with 25 points. Marc-Edouard Vlasic remains one of the better defensive defensemen in the game (although he’s taking more penalties than usual), while replacing Roman Polak with David Schlemko has given San Jose a more mobile blue line that’s proficient at quickly getting the puck out of its own zone.

Any NHL coach will tell you they’d rather have a defensive foundation in place while struggling to score goals, rather than the other way around (we’ll get to that in a bit). The Sharks seem to have that identity in place, and it should bode well for the remaining months.

Goalies thriving

Martin Jones is proving that last year was no fluke, with a 13-10-1 mark, 2.08 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. The 26-year-old is looking more and more like he’s the next franchise goaltender, and there’s no reason to believe he will suddenly drop off. Aaron Dell hasn’t seen much action, getting just four starts so far, but he’s done a more-than-admirable job as the backup with a 3-1-0 mark, 2.16 GAA and .926 SP. 

Whether the Sharks stick with Dell or seek out a more experienced backup remains to be seen, since it’s unlikely they want Jones to keep playing so many games. It’s too early to say that Dell has proven himself as a full time NHL goalie, but he’s at least on the right track.

Scoring woes

This is the Sharks’ most perplexing problem, as scoring goals wasn’t supposed to be an issue after they had the NHL’s fourth-best offense last season (2.89 goals-per game), and only got better in the playoffs (3.13 goals-per game). This season's Sharks sit at 20th in the league at 2.43 goals-per game, and are the only NHL team that hasn’t scored more than four in a single game yet.

Nearly all of the forwards are underperforming. Pavelski is on pace for 24 goals, after 38 last season. Joe Thornton is on pace for 53 points, after 82 last season. Logan Couture is on pace for 56 points, after his dominant playoff run of 30 points in 24 games.

And then there are the depth guys. Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, Chris Tierney and Mikkel Boedker are all sitting on just two goals. That’s not good enough.

Coach Pete DeBoer has been changing his lines nearly all season to no avail, and at some point it may be time for personnel changes. Kevin Labanc has already taken one roster spot, it would seem, and there could be more replacements on the way if some guys don’t get going offensively.

Prospects pushing

Fortunately for the Sharks, they may have some options in the system to help with their scoring woes. Timo Meier will undoubtedly play some NHL games shortly, as he continues to score and create offense for the Barracuda. Ryan Carpenter did some good things when he was called up recently to center the fourth line, while Danny O’Regan, the Barracuda’s leading scorer with 21 points in 19 games, could be an option at some point, too.

On the other end of the spectrum is Nikolay Goldobin, who may not be panning out. The 21-year-old former first round pick got off to a hot start with the Barracuda with 10 points in six games, but has just four points in his last 13 since losing Labanc as a linemate. He’s stuck on two goals through 19 AHL games.


Considering the Sharks had a short summer, many of them took part in the World Cup, and that they are one of the NHL’s older teams, sitting at 16-11-1 after 28 games is commendable. 

They still have to get going offensively, and the veteran forwards deserve a little more time to work their way out of their season-long slumps. If they don’t, some changes will have to be made between now and the trade deadline on Feb. 28.

But when you look at the way the Sharks have kept opposing offenses at bay and the play of Jones, it’s unlikely that they’ll suffer through any lengthy losing streaks. The division is more competitive, with Edmonton and Calgary in the mix, but the Sharks should be able to finish in the top three again, assuring themselves of a playoff spot. And as Sharks fans have seen over the years, just getting in is all that really matters.

Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win


Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win

VANCOUVER --Timo Meier's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Hertl scored into an empty net with 25 seconds remaining for the Sharks, who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games.

Nikolay Goldobin, Alex Edler and Bo Horvat scored power-play goals and Sam Gagner had two assists for the Canucks, who lost their sixth consecutive game - their longest losing streak of the season.

Goldobin's goal at 10:48 of the first period snapped a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 57 minutes for the Canucks, who had been shut out in three consecutive losses.

The Sharks had allowed just two power-play goals in their previous 17 games, but gave up three against Vancouver. The only other time San Jose allowed three power-play goals in a game was in an opening-night loss to Philadelphia.

Aaron Dell, making his first start since Feb. 22, made 28 saves for the Sharks. Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.

Meier put the Sharks ahead at 6:07 of the third with a shot from the faceoff circle that went under Markstrom's blocker. The Canucks came close with just over six minutes left, but Hertl scooped a loose puck off the goal line.

Vancouver scored twice with the man-advantage in the second period to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks took a 3-1 lead just 1:47 into the period when Meier tipped in Brenden Dillion's shot from the point.

Horvat started Vancouver's comeback, scoring just 6 seconds into a power play. Dell stopped Gagner's slap shot but Horvat jammed home the rebound. Edler tied it with a blast from the point at 11:48. It was his first power-play goal in 88 games dating to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Sharks scored 1:10 apart in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Goldobin opened the scoring when he took a pass from defenseman Derrick Pouilot and snapped a shot from the face-off circle that sailed over Dell's shoulder. The San Jose goalie was screened by Jake Virtanen.

Labanc tied it on a power play at 14:48. Joe Pavelski's shot was stopped by Markstrom, but he managed to get his own rebound and passed it to Labanc at the side of the net.

The Sharks went ahead on Couture's 29th of the season at 16:08. He took a feed from Hertl, fought off a check by Virtanen and chipped the puck past Markstrom.

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Tanev returned to Vancouver lineup for his first game since breaking his leg Feb. 8 against Tampa Bay ... San Jose center Melker Karlsson went to the dressing favoring his right leg early in the first period after blocking a shot. ... San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic left in the second period after being hit in the chest by a puck. ... The Canucks' franchise record for a scoring drought is 234 minutes, 52 seconds, set March 16-24, 2016. ... The longest goal drought by a team in the expansion era is 262 minutes, 3 seconds, set by the Minnesota North Stars from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 1988.


Sharks: vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Canucks: at Vegas on Tuesday night.

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Sharks winger Evander Kane returns to his hometown of Vancouver on Saturday, fresh off of doing something a Vancouver-born player had not done in nearly 30 years. 

On Friday, Kane became the first such player to score four goals in an NHL game since Hockey Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, who scored four goals with the Edmonton Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, 1988. It was also the first hat-trick of Kane's career, and just the fourth four-goal game in Sharks history. 

The latter point got us thinking, where does Kane's four-goal effort rank among those games? Using a rigorous, highly scientific process (read: the thoughts of this writer), we've come up with the definitive ranking. 

Without further adieu, we start with another power forward acquired in a midseason trade. 

4. Owen Nolan (Dec. 19, 1995 at Anaheim)

The Final Line: Four goals (Three power play goals), One assist, Six shots on goal

You never forget your first, so we begin with Owen Nolan, the first player to accomplish the feat in franchise history. If not for Kane and another entrant on this list (no spoilers), Nolan would still be the fastest to do it, scoring four goals in just his 27th game and just under two months after the Sharks acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche.

Nolan struck quickly throughout. He opened the scoring just 1:22 into the game against the then-Mighty Ducks, then scored his second only 57 seconds into the second period. His third and fourth, both on the power play, came 34 seconds apart in that same period. 

Just as Kane did on Friday, Nolan scored as many goals as the opposing team in a 7-4 win. It didn't quite have the same impact on the playoff race, however, as San Jose picked up its seventh win....of the entire season (in its 34th game) thanks to Nolan.

3. Patrick Marleau (Jan. 23, 2017 at Colorado)

The Final Line: Four goals (including the game-winner), Six shots on goal

The 1,459th time was the charm for the longest-tenured player in Sharks history, and the then-37-year-old Marleau became the second-oldest since 1987 to score four in a game. The oldest, Martin St. Louis, actually reached the feat against the Sharks as a 38-year-old in 2014. 

Marleau scored all four goals in a span of 13-and-a-half minutes in the third period, which began with the game tied at one. Three of those goals constituted a natural hat trick, in just a 7:42 stretch.

This game also jumpstarted Marleau's pursuit of a major milestone, as the goals were No. 494, 495, 496, and 497 of his career. He scored No. 500 a week-and-a-half later, but the four-goal game gave Marleau yet another signature moment in teal. 

2. Evander Kane (Mar. 16, 2018 at Calgary)

The Final Line: Four goals, Seven shots on goal 

Of all the players to score four goals in Sharks history, Kane certainly had the best timing. With San Jose in the thick of a playoff race and in need of a win, the newly-acquired forward delivered. 

He only needed eight games to score four goals for the first time in teal, but needed 565 for the first hat-trick of his career. The exuberance (and relief) was palpable after Kane scored his third, and that goal put the Sharks up by two. 

The desperate Flames, now four points out of the playoffs, would never get closer than that again, and Kane essentially put the game out of reach with his fourth goal 62 seconds into the third period. No Sharks player has scored four goals in a playoff game, but this one comes the closest. 

1. Tomas Hertl (Oct. 9, 2013 vs New York Rangers)

The Final Line: Four goals (One power play goal), Seven shots on goal

In just his third NHL game, and in front of his griflriend and mother visiting from the native Czech Republic, Tomas Hertl became then the fourth-youngest player in NHL history (now the sixth-youngest) to score a hat-trick-plus-one. If not for Auston Matthews scoring four in his debutHertl has arguably the most memorable four-goal game by a young player to his name. 

Of all the Sharks to score four in a game, Hertl did it the most efficiently. He only played 11:12 in that game against the Rangers, and still scored four goals on seven shots. 

Yes, it was in an October blowout, but no other four-goal game has had the same impact on the rest of the hockey world. From a fourth goal tailor-made to go viral, to the ensuing Hot Takes ("Hertl's disrespecting the game!") and subsequent jokes (Joe Thornton's still looking for four goals) it spawned, Hertl captivated the hockey world in a way no other Shark that's scored four has, and all by living his "dream, no reality."