First look: Sharks deeper on D but Oilers have McDavid, health on their side


First look: Sharks deeper on D but Oilers have McDavid, health on their side

A look at how the Sharks and Oilers match up against one another, headed into their first round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


San Jose: The Sharks were led up front by Joe Pavelski, who posted 29 goals (tied with Brent Burns for the team lead) and 68 points (second behind Burns). But even the captain saw a drop in production from last season by 10 points, which was a theme up and down the Sharks’ lineup. In terms of top scorers, Joe Thornton – whose status remains in question – went from a point-per-game player in 2015-16 to just 50 points in 79 games this season. Depth forwards like Mikkel Boedker, Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward also failed to meet expectations, and whether the oft-injured Tomas Hertl can play center on an everyday basis is still yet to be determined. Jannik Hansen was a nice addition at the trade deadline.

Edmonton: Connor McDavid, the Hart Trophy favorite as league MVP, finished at the top of the NHL’s scoring list with 100 points. His line, with Leon Draisaitl (77 points) and Patrick Maroon (27 goals) is the Oilers’ most lethal. Although trade deadline acquisition David Desharnais helped to balance out Edmonton’s attack, this is still a top-heavy offense. If the McDavid line can be held in check, the Oilers could struggle. 

Advantage: Edmonton. Keeping McDavid and his linemates at bay is much easier said than done, and even if Thornton and Logan Couture return, the Oilers – ranked eighth in the NHL with 2.96 goals-per game – have a more dangerous offense thanks to the league's best player.


San Jose: Despite some late-season struggles the Sharks finished fifth in the NHL with a 2.44 goals-against average. Burns (76 points) will almost certainly win the Norris Trophy, after becoming the first defenseman to have back-to-back 75-point seasons since Brian Leetch in 1995-96 and 1996-97. He also led the team with a plus-19 rating. The key for San Jose might be Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was so valuable in shutting down the opposition’s best players through the first three rounds last year, but didn’t look like himself over the final couple months. 

Edmonton: Thought to be a weakness in October, Edmonton’s defense seemed to get better and better as the year went on. The top defense pair features breakout blueliner Oscar Klefbom and partner Adam Larsson, who was acquired in the offseason for Taylor Hall and had a team-leading plus-21 rating.

Advantage: San Jose. The Oilers don’t have a weapon like Burns, and the Sharks are simply deeper one-through-six, including the third pair of David Schlemko and Brenden Dillon.


San Jose: Other than Burns, and despite a so-so save percentage of .912, goalie Martin Jones might have been the Sharks’ most valuable player. Early in games, especially, Jones often had to make some Grade A saves while his team got its legs going. Aaron Dell greatly exceeded expectations in his first season in the NHL as Jones’ backup, too. 

Edmonton: No goalie played more than the Oilers’ Cam Talbot, who appeared in 73 games, finished tied for the NHL lead with 42 wins, and posted a 2.39 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. He has just two career games of experience in the playoffs, though, coming on in relief for Henrik Lundqvist twice in 2014 with the Rangers.

Advantage: San Jose. Talbot’s numbers are slightly better, but Jones has shown he has an ability to steal games in the playoffs after helping the Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final last season. The Oilers have run the risk of tiring out Talbot, and their backup situation with Laurent Brossoit is also more precarious than San Jose’s.

Special Teams

San Jose: Nothing frustrated Sharks fans more this season than the team’s 25th-ranked power play (as well as the coaching staff’s unwillingness to at least try different units). The penalty kill finished 18th in the league at 80.7 percent.

Edmonton: The Oilers’ penalty kill percentage of 80.7 was identical to San Jose’s, but their power play was much better, finishing fifth in the NHL (22.9 percent) including 12 goals from big Milan Lucic.

Advantage: Edmonton. There’s no reason to think that the Sharks’ power play will suddenly catch fire, especially considering Couture led the way with 11 power play goals. On the penalty kill, the Sharks might not have enough big bodies to prevent Lucic from setting up in front of the net. The Sharks will likely have to keep the series mostly at even strength if they’re going to have a chance.

Health and energy

San Jose: Monday’s practice was encouraging for the Sharks as Thornton and Couture were able to skate, although Thornton was only on the ice for approximately 30 minutes. There’s still no indication if either will be ready for Game 1. As for overall energy, the Sharks looked gassed over their final few weeks, perhaps feeling the effects of their long run last season combined with the World Cup in the September and the condensed NHL schedule.

Edmonton: The only injured player for the Oilers is forward Tyler Pitlick, who suffered an ACL injury just before Christmas. He had 11 points (8g, 3a) in 31 games before coming out. Other than that, Edmonton appears healthy.

Advantage: Edmonton. Even if Thornton and Couture are good to go for Game 1, it’s pretty evident that neither will be at 100 percent. The Oilers are coming in without any major injuries, and they finished the season on a hot streak, with eight wins in their last nine games – evidence that their younger and healthier bodies may just be getting going.

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.