Galiardi, Winnik react to Sharks debut


Galiardi, Winnik react to Sharks debut

SAN JOSE Have the Sharks finally found the forward depth theyve been searching for, now that new acquisitions Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi are on board?

If their play in the 1-0 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday is any indication, the two newest members of the Sharks could provide just what Doug Wilson and the coaching staff wanted when they acquired the duo from Colorado in exchange for Jamie McGinn on Monday.

They brought a lot of energy. Theyre definitely going to be a big help, said Joe Thornton. Theyre both energetic players and they both control the puck well and see the ice well.

Lets start with Winnik. The 26-year-old skated alongside Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski in his first game with the Sharks, matched up primarily against the Flyers top line of Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell. In fact, Winnik spent nearly 19 minutes on the ice during even-strength play, leading all forwards. Thats not going to be a nightly occurrence as he gets eased onto the penalty-killing unit, which may take a few days, but the 6-2, 210-pounder was a big reason the Sharks were able to shut down the leagues highest-scoring offense.

I thought it went well. I thought we had some pretty good chemistry, with Pat and Joe. Its unfortunate we didnt score, but we did a great job shutting that top line down for them, Winnik said after the game.

Keeping Giroux at bay was especially impressive. The Flyers candidate for league MVP, Giroux is third in the league in points with 72. It was the first time since March 26, 2011, that Giroux was held without a shot on goal a span of 66 games.

Giroux sounded frustrated after the loss.

Im not going to get ten shots a game. Its not going to happen, he said. I know Ive got to do better in this kind of game. In games like that I want to play better. I think our line really didnt play good tonight.

Giroux didnt say so, but Winnik and Co. was a big reason or that.

Dan Winnik did a great job, said Matt Shaw, speaking to the media in place of McLellan, who missed the game with a concussion. Big guy, was put in a checkingoffensive role with the players he played with and against. You could see he was very adept at pucks on the wall, smart plays on what to do and when, very confident in doing it. Made you feel very comfortable having him on the ice.

Galiardi, meanwhile, provided good energy and an effective forecheck in almost 13 minutes of ice time against the Flyers. That includes a stretch late in the first period and early in the second when he was unable to play after taking a high hit from Philadelphias Zac Rinaldo.

TJ Galiardi played a strong game. He has that kind of slashing speed that always backs off teams a little bit, Shaw said. I think maybe he could have drawn a penalty or two tonight by the way he played.

He almost scored, too. In the third period, with the Sharks maintaining their 1-0 lead, Ilya Bryzgalov stopped him on the doorstep with a nice pad save.

Galiardi didnt care, or at least he wasnt letting on. He has come across as downright giddy since he found out about the trade, and a close call that nearly resulted in his first goal with the Sharks wasnt going to bring him down from his high.

It felt amazing, actually, he said. It was so nice to be out there and be on this side of the action. No better way to get it started than with a win, though.

As long we won, Im happy. It will come eventually. Youve got to get some chemistry with some guys and get used to playing with them a little. Make the reads, and know where theyre going. Im just happy we won.

The coaching staff sat down with Winnik and Galiardi before the game, and the players admitted that the systems employed by McLellan and the rest of the staff are pretty dissimilar than those they were used to with Colorado.

That might seem like a disadvantage at first, but it may have actually helped the pair in that they were thrown right into the fire.

Winnik explained.

The coaches didnt want to overload us with too much information. They kind of told us some simple system stuff, and then just said make reads and play hockey. Thats what we did, and I think as a team we attacked as five and defended as six, and really boxed them out when they got shots at our net.

Any time you over think, thats when you make mistakes. When you react and just play, thats when you play better.

Galiardi echoed his good friends sentiments.

The main thing is, just dont over think it, just go out and play. The systems are a lot different than what were used to, at the end of the day were all hockey players and we can make the reads.

So far, so good.

Both players did a really good job introducing themselves to their teammates and helping out with the result tonight, Shaw said.

Sharks have tall task avoiding holiday hangover in Vegas


Sharks have tall task avoiding holiday hangover in Vegas

Once they entered the league, many joked that the Vegas Golden Knights would have the best home-ice advantage in the league.

Sure, the novelty of a new team would get fans excited, but it was the team’s presence on the Las Vegas Strip that would give the expansion team an edge. After all, they call it “Sin City” for a reason, and it’s not for the ride in.

Nobody could have expected them to be this good at home.

The Golden Knights are 8-1-0 at T-Mobile Arena, and have the league’s highest winning percentage at home. They’ve outscored opponents by 18 goals, and their 4.33 goals per home game is the third-best mark in the entire league.

The Sharks will thus face their toughest road test of the season on Friday night, in a game that they’re almost designed to lose. Early afternoon games mean there’s no morning skate, but an early afternoon game the day after Thanksgiving? In Las Vegas?

Blackjack players have better luck hitting on 20.

In fact, Vegas’ home slate is littered with early starts: 12 of their 41 home games occur before the traditional 7-or-7:30 p.m. slot. Some of that is undoubtedly due to travel, of course, as the Sharks will play on the first night of a back-to-back on Friday.

But the effect is nonetheless apparent: T-Mobile Arena has become a fortress.

The same can be said about any number of arenas in cities known for their nightlife, such as the Miami Heat’s home at American Airlines Arena, located less than 10 miles from South Beach. Vegas is another matter entirely.

It doesn’t help that the Golden Knights have, home ice advantage aside, played like a playoff team. Adjusting for score effects and venue, Vegas ranks 13th and ninth, respectively, in the two major puck possession metrics: corsi-for percentage (shot attempts) and fenwick-for percentage (unblocked shot attempts).

They’ve also had luck that gamblers on the strip would envy, thriving despite being down to fourth-string goaltender Maxime Lagace because of injuries to the goalies ahead of him. Vegas has played extremely well in front of him in spite of that, and have won three straight since getting shellacked in Edmonton 10 days ago.

In spite of almost every piece of available logic heading into the season, the Vegas Golden Knights are good. Almost every piece, of course, because their home-ice advantage is simultaneously the most logical thing in the world.

In Las Vegas, it usually doesn’t pay to bet against the house.

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving


Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.