Sharks

Marleau's hat trick lifts Sharks over Avalanche

593722.jpg

Marleau's hat trick lifts Sharks over Avalanche

BOX SCORE

DENVER -- Playing in the second half of a back-to-back, especially after an intensely physical affair the night before, its up to the leaders to get the team through nights where it may not be at its best.Patrick Marleau certainly qualifies as one of those influential few on the Sharks. With a three-goal performance keying a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night at Pepsi Center, its easy to see why.Marleau scored one goal in each of the three periods to record his first hat trick since November 27, 2009. The Sharks won their third straight game overall, including both road games this weekend after an emotional 4-1 win in Dallas on Saturday night.

Thats what you want out of a road trip like this, said Marleau. Two pretty hard fought games. Well take that, and now we have to carry it over.Its your big guys leading on days where the team maybe isnt playing as well as it can, or its a little lethargic, said Todd McLellan, noting that captain Joe Thornton had three assists on the night.With the score 1-1 after the first, Marleau scored his second of the night and Joe Pavelski added his team-leading 11th to give San Jose a two-goal lead at the second intermission.The Sharks took their first lead of the game when Marleau beautifully tipped in a low shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 7:35 of the second period.That goal held up as the game-winner, and may have been a case of practice-makes-perfect.I got it up the wall and put it to the net as quickly as possible, said Vlasic, who had the primary assist on all three of Marleaus goals. Weve actually been practicing high tips, and Patty did a great job tipping it in.Later in the second, Thornton set up shop behind the net and fed Pavelski in the circle for a one-timer at 16:47. Overall, the Sharks have outscored the opposition 30-11 in the second period, including a combined 7-0 during their three-game winning streak.Thomas Greiss did the rest, finishing with 36 saves. The Avalanche outshot the Sharks 37-18 in all, although the defense corps did a good job for most of the night in keeping the shots to the outside and letting the goaltender track it down.Most of the shots were like from the blue line or the perimeter, said Greiss. It was pretty good. Most times I could see the puck right into my chest. It was a really good job by the D.Greiss improved to 4-3, and improved his goals-against average to 1.99 and save percentage to .929.Thats why we feel good about Thomas, because he can pitch those games, said McLellan.Greiss was making his first start since Nov. 12, when the Sharks failed to crack the scoreboard in a 3-0 loss to Phoenix their only defeat in the last six games (5-1-0).It was good to get a win again, especially after last game, to bounce back.The Sharks also played disciplined a necessity against the Avalanche, who sport the NHLs second best power play. Colorado was just 0-for-1 with a man advantage, while the Sharks were 1-for-6, with the one coming on Marleaus empty-netter with 43 seconds left.Some late minor penalties to Brandon Yip and Erik Johnson helped to nullify some momentum that was building for the Avalanche, when they were applying their best offensive pressure of the night while trying to get back into the game.A couple penalties kind of backed them off a bit, said Vlasic. It gave us a little bit more momentum on the bench, and we were able to squeak out with a victory.The Sharks move into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division for the first time this season with 25 points (12-5-1). They also have the highest winning percentage in the league at .694.Colorado opened the scoring the 12th time in 18 games the Sharks have allowed the first goal when Matt Duchesne tallied his ninth of the season. Colorados leading scorer turned around Douglas Murray in the offensive zone, before a cross-ice pass to Ryan Wilson. Wilson sent it back to Duchesne, who fired in a wrist shot past a diving Greiss at 7:25 of the first.The Sharks tied it shortly after on Marleaus first of the game. Just two seconds after a penalty expired to Colorados Gabriel Landeskog, Marleau charged toward the net and managed to slip in a pass from the point by Vlasic at 12:16.Vlasic was happy to see Marleau complete his fourth career hat trick with the empty-netter at the end.Hes been playing great. He gets a lot of points every year, but its the little things he does getting pucks out, winning battles along the wall, that dont show up on the scoresheet but the guys appreciate very much.He gets rewarded tonight which is nice to see. Hopefully there will be more to come. Im sure its a confidence booster for him, so Im sure hell keep shooting it even more now.The Sharks return home Wednesday night to host the Chicago Blackhawks.Odds and ends: The Sharks 18 shots was a season low. San Jose took just one penalty, an interference minor to Dan Boyle at 8:38 of the second period. Jean-Sebastien Giguere took the loss in net for Colorado, with 14 saves on 17 shots. San Jose won the faceoff battle, 33-21. Colin White and Justin Braun returned to the lineup for Jason Demers and Jim Vandermeer, who played in Dallas. Torrey Mitchell skated on a line with Marleau and Clowe, while Martin Havlat was with Michael Handzus and Jamie McGinn.

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

crosby-malkin-penguins-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

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

sharks-jones-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

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.