It's Canucks, Blues or 'Hawks in first round


It's Canucks, Blues or 'Hawks in first round

Its down to three possibilities for the Sharks in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

San Jose will either travel to Vancouver or St. Louis for Games 1 and 2 of the first round, or it will host Chicago when the postseason gets underway next week. Chicago, by virtue of its win over Detroit on Saturday afternoon, is now locked into the sixth seed.

The Sharks would capture the third seed with a win over Los Angeles tonight coupled with a Coyotes regulation loss in Minnesota.

The Sharks had the most success against the Blackhawks among the three possibilities. They finished 2-1-1 against Chicago in the regular season, winning both games at home. Their two losses in the Windy City were by a single goal each, and both were in the second of back-to-back games for San Jose.

Against Vancouver, whom the Sharks have not seen since Jan. 21, the Sharks gained three of a possible eight points. San Jose was 0-1-1 at home against the Canucks, and 1-1 in Vancouver, with the lone win coming via the shootout.

The Blues may be the team San Jose wants to avoid. The Sharks were a miserable 0-4 against them, and were outscored 11-3 in the process. San Jose failed to score a single goal in its two trips to St. Louis.

Below is the game-by-game breakdown against the three potential playoff opponents.

Sharks vs. Blackhawks
Nov. 23 vs. Chicago: Won 1-0
Dec. 11 @ Chicago: Lost 3-2 (OT)
Jan. 15 @ Chicago: Lost 4-3
Feb. 10 vs. Chicago: Won 5-3

Sharks vs. Canucks
Nov. 26 vs. Vancouver: Lost 3-2
Dec. 28 vs. Vancouver: Lost 3-2 (OT)
Jan. 2 @ Vancouver: Won 3-2 (SO)
Jan. 21 @ Vancouver: Lost 4-3

Sharks vs. Blues
Oct. 15 vs. St. Louis: Lost 4-2
Dec. 10 @ St. Louis: Lost 1-0
Feb. 12 @ St. Louis: Lost 3-0
March 3 vs. St. Louis: Lost 3-1

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick


NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.


Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.