How are the Sharks forwards faring in their matchups against the Ducks?


How are the Sharks forwards faring in their matchups against the Ducks?

Whenever a playoff series shifts locations for the first time, the focus shifts to the matchups. The lower-seeded team gets last change as the home team for the first time in a series, and with that comes the opportunity for a head coach to deploy players based on how their opponents line up before a face-off. 

With the Sharks set to face off against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the first round on Monday, don't expect San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer to take advantage. 

"That's not something that I spend a whole lot of time on, so my answer to that would be no," DeBoer told reporters after Game 2 on Saturday. "[Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle's] might be different, but I'm not concerned about that."

Each of the Sharks' four lines were on the ice to score a five-on-five goal, and none of those combinations gave up one, as Evander Kane, Logan Couture, and Mikkel Boedker did when the team was in the middle of a change. Since DeBoer will ice the same lineup for the third consecutive game, it's worth looking at their underlying numbers from the first two games, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.  

Line 5v5 Corsi-For Percentage 5v5 Shots-For Percentage 5v5 Scoring Chances-For Percentage
Kane-Pavelski-Donskoi 36.36 percent 55 percent 40.91 percent
Boedker-Couture-Hertl 38.64 percent 50 percent 48 percent
Meier-Tierney-Labanc 65.38 percent 62.5 percent 84.62 percent
Sorensen-Fehr-Karlsson 63.64 percent 66.67 percent 54.55 percent

We're dealing with incredibly small sample sizes, as no line played more than 24 five-on-five minutes together and none were on the ice for more than 45 total shot attempts, 25 total scoring chances, and 20 total shots. But still, the third and fourth lines are largely the ones driving play and scoring chances, although no line has been outshot. San Jose's top two lines were better in the second game, but on the whole, have been out-possessed and out-chanced. 

The short, random nature of a playoff series means the Sharks can still advance without that necessarily changing, but improvement from the top-six forwards would help in the long run, especially if DeBoer continues to ice them against the Ducks' top-six forward group. We shouldn't expect the matchups to change, but the circumstances surrounding those circumstances might. 

It may just be statistical noise, considering we're talking about a two-game sample size, but DeBoer went heavy on using his top-six forwards in the defensive zone to start shifts. Of the 37 defensive zone faceoffs the Sharks took five-on-five, the first and second lines were on the ice for 28, according to Natural Stat Trick. In the regular season, both lines began the majority of their non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone, and to a higher degree on the road than at home. 

Zone starts have a negligible impact upon puck possession in the long run, but over such a two-game sample, it's certainly possible the heavy defensive zone load has affected San Jose's first two lines. DeBoer may not use last change to chase matchups, but it will be interesting to see if he uses it to change the circumstances surrounding those matchups. 

Blood Brothers? Evander Kane adds Sharks to his wolf pack in Vegas

NBC Sports Bay Area

Blood Brothers? Evander Kane adds Sharks to his wolf pack in Vegas

The Sharks are in Vegas Thursday night for Game 1 of their Round 2 matcup with the Golden Knights. And Evander Kane has something to say. Or as Kane is better known by his real friends, Alan Garner.

Kane, no longer a lone wolf, scored three goals and one assists in the Sharks' Round 1 sweep of the Ducks. He agrees where he stands in this wolf pack too. 

Game 1 starts Thursday night with puck drop at 7 p.m. Pregame coverage starts with Sharks Playoffs Central at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports California. 

Five things to think about as the Sharks finally open Round 2 vs Las Vegas


Five things to think about as the Sharks finally open Round 2 vs Las Vegas

Either the Sharks or Golden Knights will take the Stanley Cup.

That’s what history suggests.

Both teams swept their prior rounds, which has only happened seven times before. 

And in six of those seven instances… the winner of this dual-post-sweep series has gone on to hoist the Cup.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. 

But entering this Round 2 series, there are no shortage of hopes and storylines on both sides.

1: There could be some rough beginnings on both sides.

Hockey players aren’t programmed to have seven days off between games.  The Sharks and Golden Knights will be resuming game action after their longest respective layoffs since last summer.  Does one team suffer from rust more than the other?  Does everybody go back to feeling normal after 20 minutes?  Timing, hands, lungs and legs are all bound to be affected by the inability to replicate game speed in respective practice sessions.  That’s just about the only thing we DO know.

2: There’s an unbelievable goalie matchup in this series.

In Round 1, Martin Jones allowed only four goals with one shutout, while Marc-Andre Fleury allowed three goals and pitched two shutouts.  How can anyone rightfully predict a high scoring series here in Round 2?  Logan Couture called Jones, “…a great goaltender that no one talks about”.  On the other side is Marc-Andre, formerly of Penguins fame.  He’s got three Stanley Cup rings, but is largely not credited for the last two.  After being exposed by Pittsburgh in the expansion draft, Fleury has the fresh start with a storybook team that any goaltender would dream of.

3: The adversity factor.

It’s not how you take defeat, it’s how you respond the next time.  Losing a playoff game (especially in multiple overtimes) can be mentally deflating.  And it is something that one side will experience on Thursday night for the first time.  Short memories are imperative here in the second season.  We know the Sharks (largely together for several years) have been through that kind of situation many times before.  We also know the Golden Knights (as an expansion team) have individual experience, but have never really had to rebound as a group.  Think about this, their longest losing skid even in the regular season was ONLY three games (twice).

4: If you’re the Sharks, stay the course.

San Jose looked really good in their first four games.  Not just getting winning results, but actually seeming to further galvanize as the series progressed.  Far as matchups with Vegas and all the small tinkering a Head Coach could possibly do… there is no better way for Pete DeBoer to start his Round 1 lineup card, than exactly how he ended it in Round 1.  His (amusing) quote in a press conference gives the best perspective: “We just won four straight against a great hockey team and I’d be an idiot to make lineup changes. We’ll let you guys overthink that. Make as many lineup changes as you want… but unless we find it necessary, why would you mess with how we’re playing right now?”

5: Maybe this is the start of something beautiful?

What if the Sharks remain a perennial powerhouse in the Pacific Division, and the Golden Knights are more than just an inaugural season surprise?  Wouldn’t it be outstanding if San Jose and Las Vegas could cultivate a long-standing future rivalry that truly began with this Round 2 series in 2018?  No offense to Los Angeles or Anaheim, but we’ve been down those roads many times before.  Finding a new team that you love to hate is almost a gift in itself.