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.


Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.