Sharks

Sharks' blue line even stronger thanks to Dillon's improvements

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USATSI

Sharks' blue line even stronger thanks to Dillon's improvements

After his first full season in a Sharks uniform, the acquisition of Brenden Dillon appeared it may have been a mistake. 

Dillon was traded from Dallas in exchange for Jason Demers, as San Jose looked to bolster its depth on the left side of their blueline and gave up a player that emerged as a legitimate top-four defenseman after the trade. Meanwhile, Dillon seemed overmatched.

Playing with the slow-footed Roman Polak exacerbated Dillon’s own shortcomings during the Sharks’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, and their combined weakness was on full display against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

So, San Jose signed the smooth-skating David Schlemko to bolster their bottom pairing last summer, and it paid off: Dillon and Schlemko comprised arguably the best third pairing in the league. 

Schlemko’s no longer in San Jose, but Dillon’s still improving. Through 23 games this season, Dillon’s posting the best possession numbers of his career (56.7 percent five-on-five corsi-for, per Corsica Hockey), and scoring points during five-on-five play at the highest rate of his career (0.72 points per 60 minues).

With Dillon on the ice, the Sharks have the puck more than when he’s not. Only Joonas Donskoi (6.73 percent) has a higher relative five-on-five corsi-for percentage than Dillon (5.4), and San Jose shoots nearly six more shots every 60 minutes that Dillon plays, according to Corsica.

He’s also getting it done on his own end: They allow nearly six fewer attempts per hour, too, and that’s the third-best mark among Sharks defensemen. 

Part of Dillon’s improvement can be attributed to who he plays with and how he’s used. He’s gotten favorable deployment, and started a career-high 58.42 percent of his non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone in five-on-five situations. 

Plus, he’s spent most of his time this season with Brent Burns and Tim Heed. Playing with the two best offensive defensemen on the team will do wonders for a player’s possession numbers. 

But both factors are out of his control, and Dillon’s been able to take advantage because of his own development. He prioritized his skating in the offseason following San Jose’s Stanley Cup loss, and his improvement since has been readily apparent. 

So, too, has the coaching staff’s greater trust in Dillon: He’s averaging 17:05 in ice time per game this season, which is nearly 30 seconds more than his previous high under Peter DeBoer (16:41 in 2015-16). 

Dillon’s continued improvement, as well as the emergence of Heed and Joakim Ryan, has allowed San Jose to absorb the loss of Schlemko and Paul Martin’s injury. The blu eline was already a strength, and now it’s an even bigger one. 

Sharks lose in Vancouver for first time since 2012

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USATSI

Sharks lose in Vancouver for first time since 2012

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Sam Gagner scored at 4:34 of overtime and the Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.

Gagner beat Martin Jones with a nice backhand move on a breakaway for his fourth of the season after a feed from Alexander Edler. It was Gagner's first goal in nine games.

Markus Granlund scored twice and Brock Boeser also had a goal in regulation for Vancouver (15-14-4). Henrik Sedin and brother Daniel Sedin each added three assists. Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves.

Brent Burns scored two goals and Marcus Sorenson had one for San Jose (17-10-4). Martin Jones stopped 36 shots for the Sharks, who were playing their second game in two nights after Thursday's 3-2 road victory over the Calgary Flames.

San Jose had won 11 straight at Rogers Arena dating back to the Canucks' last victory on home ice over their Pacific Division rivals all the way back on Jan. 21, 2012. Vancouver was 0-9-2 over that stretch while getting outscored 41-14.

Leading 3-2 through 40 minutes, the Canucks nearly restored their two-goal lead four minutes into the third, but Jones stretched to make a great pad save on Thomas Vanek.

The Sharks mustered only one shot through the first 13 minutes of the final period, but got the equalizer with 5:49 left in regulation when Burns' point shot went off the skate of Canucks defenseman Alex Biega in front and beat Markstrom for his second of the night, sixth of the season and fifth in five games.

Coming off Wednesday's embarrassing 7-1 loss at home to Nashville, the Canucks stormed out of the gate against the Sharks and led 2-1 after the first period before Boeser stretched the lead to two.

The NHL's rookie scoring leader ripped a shot over Jones' shoulder on the power play at 11:56 of the second for his 17th, moments after slicing through the Sharks' defense and ringing a shot off the post.

San Jose got that one back with 1:44 left in the period when former Canucks forward Jannik Hansen started a sequence that ended with Sorenson netting his first past Markstrom.

Already minus five regulars, including two-thirds of their top line with Bo Horvat (broken foot) and Sven Baertschi (broken jaw) out long-term, the Canucks announced Friday morning that shutdown defenseman Christopher Tanev will miss two to three weeks with a groin strain.

Granlund, who came in with one goal in his last 12 games, opened the scoring 44 seconds in on the power play. Daniel Sedin redirected a slap pass in the slot from Henrik Sedin right to Granlund at the side of the net, and he beat Jones between the legs for his fifth.

Vancouver could have easily been up by two or three moments later as the Canucks led 10-0 in shots after just five minutes.

San Jose, which came in 7 for 21 on the power play over its last four games to climb from tied for 24th overall to tied for 11th, tested Markstrom five times on its first man-advantage opportunity before finally breaking through after Vancouver took another penalty.

The Sharks won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Burns, who snapped his fifth past Markstrom at 10:45.

Markstrom stopped San Jose's Chris Tierney on a short-handed breakaway later in the period before Granlund scored his second of the night seconds after the penalty expired. Daniel Sedin's initial shot fell at the top of the crease to Henrik Sedin, who tapped it over for Granlund to put into a wide-open net at 14:27.

NOTES: Canucks center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Erik Gudbranson remain sidelined with upper-body injuries. Vancouver is also without wing Derek Dorsett, who ended his playing career late last month due to spinal problems. ... San Jose forward Joel Ward got an assist on Burns' second goal of the night for his 300th career point in his 700th NHL game.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Monday night at Edmonton.

Canucks: Sunday at home against Calgary.

Check out this hilarious Sharks Christmas music video

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Check out this hilarious Sharks Christmas music video

Everyone knows the classic Christmas songs. Your family probably plays the same tunes year in and year out. 

It's time for the something fresh. 

The San Jose Sharks are here to bring some new flavor to Christmas spirit. On Friday, the team re-released the music video you all need to see, with their song "Holiday Sweater." Turn the volume up for this one.

Merry Christmas and good luck getting that jingle out of your head.