Sharks

Sharks demolished in Dallas to close out 2017

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AP

Sharks demolished in Dallas to close out 2017

BOX SCORE

DALLAS -- Ben Bishop is getting regular work, and he and the Dallas Stars have been playing some of their best hockey of the season.

Bishop made 26 saves in his fourth shutout of the season, Tyler Pitlick scored twice and the Stars beat the San Jose Sharks 6-0 on Sunday night.

Bishop's 23rd career shutout came in his seventh straight start. It was Dallas' fourth win in five games.

In the first two games of a six-game homestand, the Stars have outscored opponents 10-2. The first five games are all two days apart.

"We kind of had a real hard one there before this homestand, a lot of in-and-outs, so it's kind of nice to have this homestand," Bishop said. "We've done a good job so far. It's going to be kind of important to enjoy this one and obviously get some rest (Monday)."

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said there are few breaks in the schedule.

"We've made a little bit of ground, and we've created no separation," he said. "This is the way it's going to be for the rest of the year. It doesn't seem like anybody's missing a beat right now, especially in the Central."

Dallas scored two goals in each period - by John Klingberg and Pitlick in the first, Stephen Johns and Tyler Seguin in the second and Devin Shore and Pitlick 50 seconds apart in the third.

"I thought this was Pitlick's strongest game," Hitchcock said. "He stayed determined on the puck."

San Jose starter Martin Jones had 18 saves in the first two periods before giving way to Aaron Dell, who stopped eight shots.

The Sharks' three-game winning streak ended with their most lopsided loss this season. The poor road performance came as San Jose began a stretch with 14 of 18 games on the road.

"I don't look at this like we've been a poor road team. This was a poor game tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I don't think it's a symptom of something bigger. It was just a bad night."

Klingberg added an assist on Seguin's 19th goal of the season, a power-play score. Radek Faksa tied his career high with three assists and Mattias Janmark assisted twice.

The Stars had the game's first six shots on goal and cashed in on their seventh. Janmark circled behind the net and passed to Klingberg near the right faceoff dot. He sent a shot past Jones at 6:19, and then Pitlick gave Dallas a 2-0 lead at 15:07.

Dallas had 17 shots, their most in the first period this season, to five for San Jose. The Sharks had a chance with a power play to begin the second, but Bishop stopped the first six shots on goal. Logan Couture sent one shot into the right goalpost and another into the goalie's pads.

"We didn't play very well," Couture said. "Pretty simple. Left our goalies out to dry. I feel bad for those two. They battled and no one else did."

The teams were skating 4-on-4 when Johns scored at 4:25 of the second.

Seguin skated in front to deflect Klingberg's shot into the top of the net on the power play.

NOTES: Dallas RW Alexander Radulov left in the second period with an upper-body injury from a hit by Sharks D Justin Braun. ... The Stars have scored a power-play goal in six straight games, following a stretch of 14 games with only two goals with a man advantage. ... Benn has seven points (three goals, four assists) during a six-game point streak. ... Couture, who leads San Jose with 15 goals, returned after missing four games because of a concussion. ... The Sharks had not allowed more than five goals in a game before Sunday. ... The six-goal win was Dallas' largest margin of victory. ... Pitlick has seven goals this season. Three times he has scored twice in a game.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Play the second game on a five-game trip on Tuesday night at Montreal.

Stars: Host Columbus on Tuesday night.

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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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. 

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

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USATSI

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought?