NHL Gameday: Another back-to-back as Sharks visit Ottawa

NHL Gameday: Another back-to-back as Sharks visit Ottawa

Programming note – Sharks-Senators coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 17-11-1, 35 points, 1st Pacific Division
Senators: 16-11-2, 34 points, 2nd Atlantic Division


***Ottawa has won five straight over the Sharks, including Dec. 7, 4-2 at SAP Center. The Sharks felt they deserved better in that one, though, after outshooting the Senators 37-17. Erik Karlsson had one goal and two assists for the Senators, and Mike Condon made 35 saves.

“I thought we were the better team, start to finish,” Logan Couture said after the game.

***The Sharks will be playing the second of a four-game road trip, beating the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Tuesday, 3-2 in a shootout. It’s also the second of a back-to-back for San Jose, which is 3-1 in such situations so far, including a win over Carolina last Saturday.

Ottawa is opening a brief two-game homestand. The Sens haven’t played since getting spanked by the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday, 5-1. That concluded a four-game road trip in which they went 1-3, with the lone win coming over the Sharks.

***Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who missed Tuesday's game, will be a game-time decision according to coach Pete DeBoer. Martin Jones will make his second start in as many nights.


Sharks: David Schlemko. The defenseman returned to the Sharks’ lineup on Tuesday in Toronto, skating mostly with Justin Braun in place of the injured Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He recorded a game-high seven shots in 17:08 of ice time, and although he’s still looking for his first goal as a Shark, he’s sixth on the team with 51 shots this season.

Senators: Kyle Turris. The 27-year-old center has 19 points this season, with seven of his team-leading 11 goals goals coming at home. The third overall pick in the 2007 draft, Turris has eight points (3g, 5a) in the last 10 games.


Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Matt Nieto – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
David Schlemko – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Mike Hoffman – Derick Brassard – Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel – Kyle Turris – Bobby Ryan
Zack Smith – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Tom Pyatt
Chris Kelly – Curtis Lazar – Chris Neil

Marc Methot – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Ben Harpur – Chris Wideman

Mike Condon (starter)
Andrew Hammond


Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) is questionable. Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) is out.

Senators: Craig Anderson (personal), Curtis Lazar (concussion) and Chris Wideman (upper body) are day-to-day. Clarke MacArthur (concussion) and Fredrik Claesson (lower body) are out.


“Guys just didn’t have the grit, weren’t going. It was top to bottom. I think we found it in the third, but we can’t come out in games like that and just be that flat."  - Justin Braun, after the Sharks’ 3-2 shootout win in Toronto on Tuesday

How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.  

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play has been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it.