Road trip revealing deeper issues for Sharks

Road trip revealing deeper issues for Sharks

The San Jose Sharks made the wrong kind of history on Friday night.

They led by three goals after two periods and lost to the Ottawa Senators, the first time in franchise history they’d accomplished such a feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via statistician Darin Stephens). It’s undoubtedly a dubious distinction, but such a result shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected, due to score effects.

When teams build big leads, they play a more conservative style and tend to sacrifice offense in order to preserve that lead. Trailing teams, by contrast, play far more aggressively in order to overcome their large deficit.

Score effects were on full display Friday night, and a rather extreme case at that. The Sharks entered the third period with a 41-34 five-on-five shot attempt advantage, and ended regulation trailing 65-56 in five-on-five shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Once Ottawa tied the game, though, San Jose out-attempted their opponents 12-5, per Again, that’s to be expected: when adjusting for score effects, the Sharks are one of the league’s best possession teams and the Senators are one of the worst.

So, San Jose achieved an ignominious first on the second night of a back-to-back, and they should be able to dust their hands off and shift their attention to Winnipeg, right? After all, it was just one of those games.

The problem, of course, is that the Sharks have had two of those games in less than a week. The first was their 2017-ending blowout loss in Dallas, where San Jose also allowed six goals.

With clunkers in half of their games so far, the road trip has been largely uninspiring. The Sharks have controlled just 48.29 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts in four games, and a paltry 46.84 percent when adjusting for score, according to Corsica Hockey.

In fact, dating back to Dec. 14, when San Jose started a stretch of six games within the Pacific Division, they’ve attempted just 48.76 percent of the shots in score-adjusted situations. The Sharks went 4-1-1 over that stretch, but the team hasn’t playing its best hockey for a while and they’re no longer getting the results to mask it.

San Jose will get a league-mandated five days off following their Sunday matinee against the Jets, and it will come at an ideal time. The Sharks have been far from their best on this road trip, and will need to improve following the break if they want any chance of catching up to Vegas and Los Angeles.

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes


Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

Kevin Labanc’s first period goal in the Sharks’ Sunday win over the Ducks certainly didn’t look like it was just his fifth of the season, or only his third since opening night.

The 22-year-old, sprung in alone on a breakaway, sold Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on a fake shot with a leg kick, and snapped the puck past him into the top corner. You know a ‘goal-scorers goal’ when you see it, and you saw it 3:38 into the second period.

Labanc not only broke a 12-game, month-long goalless drought, but picked up his third point in as many games after scoring zero in his previous six. Despite his emergence as a force on the power play, all three points came during five-on-five play.

He’s generated six scoring chances in five-on-five situations in his last three games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s as many as Labanc accounted for in the six games preceding this run.

The same can be said about his five-on-five shot attempts (seven) and high-danger chances (two). His six shots on goal in his last three games are just one shy of also matching his five-on-five output over his six games prior.

In those categories, Labanc ranks third, third, and tied for second among Sharks forwards, as well as third in five-on-five scoring chances. He’s also tied with Mikkel Boedker for the forward-lead in five-on-five points over the last three games, despite playing only the eighth-most five-on-five minutes.

As Labanc’s broken out of an extended slump, so have the Sharks. Since returning from the bye week on Jan. 13, San Jose is fifth in five-on-five scoring rate (3.1 goals for/60 minutes), compared to 28th before their bye (1.91).

They’re also 5-1-0 during that time.

The Sharks, much like Labanc, were too reliant upon power play production prior to the NHL-mandated week off. Over half of Labanc’s points came with (at least) a man advantage, and 32 of San Jose’s 108 were scored on the power play.

Since, the second-year forward has only scored five-on-five points, while only five of the Sharks’ 23 goals were power play tallies. The power play’s still converting, but it’s not been the sole driver of San Jose’s offense.

It’s only a six-game sample, but the early five-on-five, post-bye week returns are promising for Labanc and the Sharks. The next step for both is to maintain that pace.

If Labanc and San Jose can, the Sharks may not need to shop for a top-six winger at the trade deadline after all.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.