Sharks

Knuble to Sharks could make sense

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Knuble to Sharks could make sense

Veteran forward Mike Knuble was a healthy scratch in the Washington Capitals 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg on Thursday night, leading to speculation the 39-year-old could be traded in the near future.

CSNWashington.coms Chuck Gormley theorizes that one of the clubs that may be interested, if Knuble is on the market, is the San Jose Sharks.

Gormley points out:

By making Knuble a healthy scratch on Thursday night, coach Dale Hunter ran the risk of not only alienating his veteran winger, but dividing his locker room. And that could mean a quick deal is in the works for Knuble, who is on a one-year, 2 million deal.Knubles NHL career blossomed in Boston when he was placed on a line with Joe Thornton and Glen Murray. That was nine years ago, but the struggling San Jose Sharks could use a right wing to play with Thornton and a net presence on the power play.

The move could make sense for the Sharks for a few more reasons.

First of all, Thornton has fond memories of Knuble when I asked him about his former teammate after the Sharks 5-3 win over Chicago on Friday.

Big, strong, goes to the net real hard. Great quick release, and likes scoring dirty goals. Just a competitor and good veteran leadership, Thornton said. He fit in great, and people I think underestimate his skating ability. Hes actually a pretty good skater for a big guy. It was a good line back then.

Would be welcome Knuble to the Sharks?

Absolutely. Great guy, said the Sharks captain.

The Sharks have used a variety of players on their top line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski, while Marty Havlat remains sidelined with a partially torn hamstring and may not return in time to have much of an impact, anyway.

In the past two weeks, Andrew Desjardins, Benn Ferriero and Patrick Marleau have all skated in that spot. On Wednesday night against Calgary, Ferriero, who has been inconsistent since being recalled from Worcester in mid-December, was ineffective and bumped in place of Marleau.

That left a hole on the second line, and John McCarthy actually spent time skating with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe on Friday.

With Knuble on the top line and Marleau on the second, that would leave Havlat to provide depth on a third line with Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn as an upgrade to Torrey Mitchell.

Knuble, who has just three goals this season, is a guy that needs to play with top players in order to be effective. He blossomed with Thornton and Murray in Boston, continued to produce with players like Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne in Philadelphia, and as recently as last season scored 24 goals with Washington. Hes due to become an unrestricted free agent, and theres a good chance he retires when its through. He would cost you less than, say, Ray Whitney, another player reportedly on San Jose's radar.

Hes also one of the most professional and well-liked players in the game today. Having not won a Stanley Cup since he played a limited role with the Red Wings in 1998, hed be as driven as anyone when the playoffs came around.

Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

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Sharks have tall task against Penguins, who are in Stanley Cup form

The Sharks witnessed firsthand the emergence of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native Nathan Mackinnon as a legitimate superstar in a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. Naturally, their reward is to face the NHL's first superstar from the area on Saturday. 

And of course, much like Mackinnon, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is playing some of the best hockey of his career. 

In 2018, no player has scored more points than the three-time Stanley Cup champion (15). In fact, three of the top five scorers in the new year skate in the Steel City: Evgeni Malkin is tied for third with 13 points, and Phil Kessel is right behind him in a tie for fifth with 12 points. 

The trio has powered the Penguins to a three-point lead on the Eastern Conference's final Wild Card spot. As recently as New Year's Eve, though, the Penguins were seventh place in the loaded Metropolitan Division, and three points back of the postseason. 

It was always a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' Pittsburgh would turn it on. Fatigue was always a possibility, as the back-to-back champions have played at least 13 more postseason games (49) than any other team in the league over the last two seasons, but any concerns seem firmly in the rearview mirror at the moment. 

The same cannot necessarily be said about the Sharks, whom the Penguins dispatched in six games in San Jose's first Stanley Cup Final appearance. Yes, they've won three out of four since the bye week, but haven't played all that well in the process.

Two of those wins came against the lowly Coyotes, and San Jose has barely out-possesed their opponents (50.74 five-on-five corsi-for percentage; 51.22 fenwick-for percentage, according to Corsica Hockey). They're scoring nearly a goal more per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (2.69) than before the bye (1.85), but are allowing nearly one-and-a-quarter more goals (3.58 five-on-five GA/60) than before the bye week (2.24).

The latter is, at least in part, because Martin Jones is not playing well. The Conn Smythe-like form that kept the Sharks in it against the Penguins two Junes ago has largely eluded him this season, and injury may have played a part. 

Jones is day-to-day with a minor injury, according to the Bay Area News Group's Paul Gackle, and the team recalled goaltender Troy Grosenick from the San Jose Barracuda on Friday as a result. That leaves Aaron Dell in net as the last line of defense against the Penguins. 

With Pittsburgh looking a lot like the team that celebrated a Stanley Cup win on San Jose's home ice two postseasons ago, stopping them will be a tall task. 

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now.