Five Sharks predictions for the second half

Five Sharks predictions for the second half

The Sharks are officially set to begin the stretch run to the postseason, with the final 32 games packed into 68 days. Making the playoffs shouldn’t be an issue, as they sit atop the Pacific Division at the All-Star break, but this team has higher ambitions than just getting to the tournament after a trip to the Stanley Cup Final last year.

Here are five predictions for push to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

1 - Logan Couture will lead the team in second half points

Brent Burns is the Sharks’ leading scorer with 51 points, and there’s no reason to think he’ll slow down over the second half. Logan Couture, on the other hand, has had a disappointing first half that’s perhaps been overshadowed by Joe Thornton’s drop off in production. Couture, if you remember, had 30 points in 24 playoff games last spring. He’s sitting on 33 points through 49 games now. That’s a pretty drastic decline.

The 27-year-old has had a variety of linemates, as coach Pete DeBoer has been in search of consistent offense throughout the first half, so that probably hasn’t helped. Prior to the break, Couture looked to be gaining some chemistry with Patrick Marleau and Mikkel Boedker, though. 

He’ll have a hard time keeping up with Burns, who is in the midst of a remarkable campaign. But from this point forward, we’re predicting here that Couture has the most points until the regular season finale on April 8.

2 - Martin Jones will get more rest

The Sharks’ number one goalie hasn’t shown any signs of being tired, but the team is playing a dangerous game if it keeps playing him as much as it has. Aaron Dell has started just eight of the first 50 games, and that kind of workload will have to increase over the second half to assure Jones isn’t overworked.

Or, if the Sharks coaching staff doesn’t trust Dell – he has started just two games against teams currently in the playoffs, and those two teams, Calgary and Philadelphia, are just barely in – then the club better go out and find someone who they believe can win games against top competition.

It’s not like the Sharks’ brass doesn’t know the value of having a rested goalie for the playoffs, either. James Reimer started eight of the final 19 regular season games last season, and DeBoer and Doug Wilson both commented at the time on the importance of having two reliable, well-rested goalies. It’s hard to imagine they’ve suddenly changed their minds.

We’ll put the over/under on games Jones plays this year at 65 – the same number he hit last season. To reach that, he’ll have to sit more frequently.

3 - The trade deadline will be quiet, but at least one move will be made

Maybe the Sharks are still seeking a more veteran backup than Dell, and an argument can be made that they need to upgrade the offense, too. The main issue they face, though, is they are right up against the salary cap, and the guys that we figured were the most likely to get moved are already gone in Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels.

They could get creative, though, perhaps sending a high round draft pick along with an underperforming forward with a high salary to a team that’s in a rebuild. (For example, and this is purely hypothetical, they could package some draft picks and a player like Joel Ward to Arizona for Martin Hanzal, who has been mentioned in some trade rumors to San Jose). 

We all know Wilson makes a ton of phone calls to GMs around the league. The guess here is that it leads to at least one notable upgrade to the roster before the deadline on March 1.

4 - At least one player will get bumped from the top power play unit

It was telling that in the game just before the All-Star break against Edmonton, DeBoer put two completely different power play units on the ice early in the third period for a extended four-minute advantage. If there’s one part of their game that will have to improve going into the postseason, it’s the power play, which is just 19-for-128 (14.8 percent) since Nov. 1.

Maybe DeBoer puts Burns, Couture, Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau back together for Tuesday’s game against the Blackhawks. But it’s likely that they’re now on a short leash. We know Burns won’t get moved from that group. Couture leads the team with seven power play goals. Pavelski won’t be going anywhere, either, with his ability to redirect pucks and find loose change around the net.

Could Thornton be a candidate to get dropped to the second unit if that top group continues to struggle? That would have been unthinkable at the start of the year, but it might be time to consider it.

5 - Sharks will face the Oilers in the first round

Yes, that means that I’m predicting that the Ducks will win the Pacific Division. Let’s face it, this Sharks team has never had the personality to go all out in the regular season just to try and earn a higher playoff seed. Finishing in third place in the Pacific last year obviously had no effect on their ability to get out of the Western Conference, either.

And, frankly, a first round matchup with Edmonton is probably a good one for the Sharks. As long as they play a sound defensive game, like they have all year, they’ll score their goals against a team that doesn’t have a great defense corps and is not quite ready to contend for a championship. There will be extra motivation among some of the Sharks, too, to beat their former coaching staff.

Mark it down – Connor McDavid’s first NHL playoff series will be against the San Jose Sharks.

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. 

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win


SAN JOSE -- Jannik Hansen scored his first goal of the season and fellow fourth-liners Eric Fehr and Barclay Goodrow also scored to help the San Jose Sharks win their season-high fifth straight game, 6-2 over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture added his 30th goal of the season, and Joe Pavelski and Mikkel Boedker also scored to give the Sharks a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.

Brent Burns added three assists and Martin Jones made 26 saves.

The scoring barrage by San Jose spoiled Cory Schneider's return to net for the Devils. Schneider allowed four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled midway through the second period of his first start since March 8. Schneider has lost 11 starts in a row since his last win for the Devils on Dec. 27.

Taylor Hall scored his 32nd goal of the season and Blake Coleman also scored for the Devils, who lead Florida by just one point in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have two games in hand.

After Hansen and Fehr scored in the first period, Goodrow chipped one in midway through the second period on a surprising night of scoring from the fourth line when he beat Schneider on a 2-on-1.

Couture then scored 40 seconds later on San Jose's first shot against Keith Kinkaid for his third career 30-goal season. Boedker added San Jose's second power-play goal of the night late in the second and the rout was on.

The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first game back from a 3-0 Canadian road trip, scoring three goals in the first period and killing 1:20 of a two-man advantage for New Jersey.

The teams traded goals to start with Fehr beating Schneider over the shoulder from a bad angle and Hall answering when he stole a bouncing puck from Justin Braunand beat Jones with a quick shot.

San Jose then scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead. Pavelski tipped in a shot from Kevin Labanc on the power play to give the Sharks the lead.

Then after Jones denied Damon Severson from in close at one end, Dylan DeMelo sent a long pass that Hansen chased down and then beat Schneider on a breakaway for his first goal since March 30, 2017.

NOTES: DeMelo has 10 assists this month. ... San Jose D Brenden Dillon has a five-game point streak. ... Devils F Miles Wood (upper body) was scratched and Jesper Bratt played in his place.


Devils: Visit Pittsburgh on Friday.

Sharks: Host Vegas on Thursday.