Remarkable nature of Pavelski's career creates unrealistic expectations for Sharks captain

Remarkable nature of Pavelski's career creates unrealistic expectations for Sharks captain

Joe Pavelski’s 300th career goal was a neat encapsulation of his career.

Yes, he benefitted from some good fortune, as the puck took a fortuitous bounce off of a couple Panthers out to him in front of the net. But Pavelski put himself in a position to succeed, gaining inside position while somehow skating under the radar of Florida’s defense, despite having 299 goals to his name at the point.  

He flew under the radar throughout his draft in 2003, just as he has his whole career. Pavelski led the USHL with 36 goals during his draft year, but was passed over 204 times before the Sharks selected him in the seventh round.

The Wisconsin native has scored more goals than all but five of the players drafted ahead of him, and more points than all but seven. Of the top 10 2003 draftees in goals, assists, and points, Pavelski’s the only player that was drafted outside of the first two rounds.

Players drafted in Pavelski’s position have an 8.2 percent chance of playing at least 100 NHL games, TSN’s Scott Cullen found. Playing eight times as many games, and scoring as many goals, is simply extraordinary.

He’s beaten the odds throughout his career, and the Sharks are still relying on him to do so.

Pavelski, 34, is far past the age when forwards first tend to decline. Eric Tulsky, who’s now the Carolina Hurricanes’ Manager of Analytics, found that, on average, forwards retain about 70 percent of their scoring in their age 32-33 seasons, and only 60 percent by the time they’re 35.

Right now, Pavelski’s on pace to score 44 points, or about 56 percent of his career-best offensive season (79 points). Part of that decline is undoubtedly due to injury, as the Sharks captain has played hurt for much of the season.

Injury, however, can only explain so much, given the physical punishment he takes on a near-nightly basis, and his well-established skating limitations. He won’t shoot under eight percent the rest of the season, his lowest mark since 2011, but he’s at the point in his career where diminishing returns should not come as a surprise.

Perhaps Pavelski will be able to fight off the effects of age, just as he’s overcome every other obstacle put in his path to this point. Betting against him has proven to be a fool’s errand.

But when beating the odds becomes an expectation, it’s then too easy to lose sight of just how remarkable Pavelski’s career has been so far, and to set the bar too high.

Martin Jones has not made up for Sharks' recent defensive struggles


Martin Jones has not made up for Sharks' recent defensive struggles

For just the third time this season, the Sharks scored three goals for the third consecutive game in Sunday night’s loss to the Wild. San Jose’s scored 13 goals in the last three games, which is a dramatic improvement for one of the league’s lowest-scoring offenses.

Sunday also marked the fourth time in the last five games the Sharks, one of the NHL’s best defensive teams, allowed four goals. All four have come in starts by Martin Jones since he returned to the crease on Dec. 2.

San Jose’s looked poor defensively in front of Jones following his return, and it’s been difficult to fault him on many of the goals. The Sharks’ defensive numbers over his last four starts match the eye test.

Normally, 21.66 percent of the shots Jones faces in five-on-five situations and 26.9 percent of the shots he faces in all situation are of the ‘high-danger’ variety, according to Corsica Hockey. Over his last four starts, those numbers are 29.90 percent and 32.23 percent, respectively.

But Jones also has not been up to his usual standards. At even strength this season, his high-danger save percentage is .798, and .821 in all situations.

Over the last four games, those numbers have fallen significantly. His high-danger save percentage at even strength is over seven points lower (.724), and nearly 13 points lower in all situations (.692).

So the Sharks, essentially, have allowed a higher share of high-danger shots in Jones’ first four starts after coming back from injury. Jones, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to offset that increase.

It’s unclear whether that increase, or Jones’ own performance, deserves a larger share of the blame. It’s clear, however, that the Sharks can’t expect to win if either trend continues.

San Jose’s remained in playoff contention this season because of their defense. As they’ve struggled to score, they’ve prevented their opponents from scoring, and won games on the backs of stingy defensive efforts.

The assumption with the Sharks was that, so long as their defensive effort remained level, an offense rounding into form would allow them to climb up the standings. The former’s gotten worse, and the Sharks are struggling more than their record would indicate.

Since Jones returned, San Jose is 2-2-1, and 1-2-1 in his starts. That mark could very easily be 0-2-2 or 0-3-1, if not for a three-goal comeback against the Hurricanes.

That’s worrisome ahead of one of the most vital stretches of the season. San Jose’s next six games are against divisional opponents, and they have an opportunity to gain significant ground in the division.

That opportunity will be wasted if the Sharks defense, and Jones, aren’t able to tighten up.


Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota


Sharks comeback falls short in wild loss to Minnesota


SAN JOSE -- Nino Niederreiter scored 3:26 into overtime and the Minnesota Wild beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Sunday night after squandering a three-goal lead.

Eric Staal scored twice and Ryan Murphy added a goal as the Wild extended their winning streak over the Sharks to four games.

Tomas Hertl tapped in a loose puck for San Jose with five minutes left in regulation to tie it at 3.

Hertl's goal followed a furious Sharks attack that Wild goalie Alex Stalock was able to fend off until a shot from Dylan DeMelo bounced off his shoulder pads and into no man's land just above the crease.

Brent Burns scored twice for the Sharks, who had won five of seven.

Stalock made 31 saves in his first appearance against his former team. Martin Jones stopped 20 shots for the Sharks.

The Wild, winners in four of their last five games, scored twice in the first 10 minutes. A series of sharp passes set up Murphy for a power-play goal just more than four minutes in. Staal sent a pass to Jason Zucker behind the net and he found Murphy for a 1-on-1 score.

Staal's first goal came after Ryan Suter recognized an advantage when Burns ran into Jones, knocking him off his feet. Suter delivered a pass to Staal, who easily fired it over Jones.

Early in the second period, Staal was able to push the puck through Jones' skates for a 3-0 Wild lead.

Burns got the Sharks on the scoreboard with a power-play goal during a two-man advantage late in the second period. Burns scored again on a power play with a slap shot from just inside the blue line midway through the third, his 12th multi-goal game.

NOTES: Sharks forward Jannik Hansen appeared in his 600th NHL game. ... Burns has six points in his last three games, including three goals. ... Murphy scored his first goal in 69 games. ... Staal had his second multi-goal effort in five games. ... Wild forward Jason Zucker has points in eight of his last nine games.


Wild: Open a three-game homestand against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.

Sharks: Begin a three-game road trip in Calgary on Thursday.