Sharks

Mailbag: Which teams pose biggest threat to Sharks in 2017 playoffs?

Mailbag: Which teams pose biggest threat to Sharks in 2017 playoffs?

Some mailbag questions as the end of the regular season draws near…

Which teams pose the biggest threat in the Western Conference to the Sharks’ playoff run? (@Broly2442)

The obvious answers are Minnesota and Chicago. That Wild team, in particular, looks like it may have San Jose’s number based on what we’ve seen in two games in the regular season. I think the Sharks match up slightly better against the Blackhawks, who have more top end talent but aren’t quite as deep as the Wild. Last season, the Sharks did a great job shutting down the opposition’s top players in the first three rounds. It's was Pittsburgh's depth that did them in.

If you’re looking for a dark horse team that could be trouble for the Sharks, though, I’d suggest Nashville. San Jose struggles most of all with speedy teams, and that’s the Predators’ identity, especially after swapping Shea Weber for P.K. Subban in the offseason. If there’s one team I would hope to avoid in the first round if I’m a Sharks fan, it’s Nashville.

Anaheim is another club that the Sharks probably don’t want to see in the first round. Although they’ve had an uneven regular season, the Ducks are a team with a Stanley Cup-winning coach, have given the Sharks problems in recent years, and will be out to make up for some recent playoff failures. The records could go out the window if the Sharks and Ducks face off.

Jones and Dell have been great, but with Groesnick on fire in AHL, are we going to see him called up? (ichael @mleeb)

Well there’s no reason to carry three goalies or to use Troy Grosenick at this point on the NHL club, but I imagine he’ll stick around as the third goaltender for the playoffs if the Barracuda get knocked out before the Sharks do.

The 27-year-old has picked a good time to have a standout year in the AHL, too. There’s very little chance of him returning here, since Aaron Dell is signed through next season and Martin Jones obviously isn’t going anywhere. As a pending unrestricted free agent Grosenick should draw some interest around the league, especially considering how many teams have struggled with their goaltending this season. 

Do you think Micheal Haley makes [the] playoff roster or do you think they'll put a scorer in his place? (Marcus Zimmerman @3zimmem45)

I like what Haley’s brought this season. Whether that earns him a place in the active lineup when the postseason starts could depend on the opponent, much like it has throughout the season. Obviously, guys like Haley tend to become less important in the playoffs, but it’s not like he’s hurt the team when he’s been in there. His 10 points (1g, 9a) and plus-six rating in 47 games are evidence enough of that. 

That all said, I would still be a little surprised if he’s in the lineup for Game 1 of the first round, as young guys like Kevin Labanc and/or Timo Meier could be back by then. But it wouldn’t shock me, either.

With Jannik Hansen part of the team, do you see him as someone they want to expose or protect during the expansion draft? (Joshua Williams @JWill_707)

Very little doubt in my mind that the Sharks will protect Hansen. He’s signed through next season, and the Sharks are on the hook for just $2 million of his salary. They are much more likely to expose forwards Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward.

On another note, I’ve canvassed quite a few scouts lately about the Sharks’ acquisition of the 30-year-old Hansen, and not one of them thought it was a bad move. According to one, the Sharks acquiring Hansen may have been the best move of any team in the league before the deadline.

Given the age of the team and the fact they were runners up [last season], do you think they could have gone more all-in at the deadline? (@ZaakJiwa)

If you’re suggesting could they have made a bigger move, that wouldn't have been the correct approach. Keeping in mind they were already up against the salary cap, if they were going to try for, say, a Matt Duchene, they would have had to part with at least one or two key players. 

That wouldn’t have made much sense based on where they are in the standings, and how much they value this team’s chemistry.

 

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.

Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

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Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.