Sharks

Sharks-Devils: What to watch for

557338.jpg

Sharks-Devils: What to watch for

NEWARK, NJ Between Martin Havlats season debut, Colin Whites return to New Jersey, and Joe Thorntons 1000th NHL game, the Sharks should be plenty motivated to end their three-game losing streak tonight against the Devils.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said the team should be motivated enough, though, even without all the storylines.

White and Thornton shouldnt be the motivators for our team, said McLellan. It should be getting a win and playing properly for a full 60 minutes. Weve played well in a lot of the games, but not for a full 60. Weve made some errors that have cost us.

Still, there is no shortage of things to look for when the puck drops at the Prudential Center in the only meeting between these two clubs this season.

Havlat watch: Sharks fans have been waiting patiently for Martin Havlat to make his season debut. Hes now recovered from his shoulder surgery and should immediately bring more speed and skill to San Joses offense.

And they need it. The Sharks have just five even strength goals this season, while Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture have yet to find the back of the net in any capacity.

Couture is one player who could immediately benefit from Havlats return. Now that hes one of the focal points of the Sharks offense, Couture has had trouble dealing with the extra attention from top opposing defenders. Havlat is slotted to play in the right wing with Couture and Ryane Clowe.

I think well be quicker on the forecheck, get the pucks first in scrums, and Havlats got an explosive first couple of steps where he can find the loose pucks, said Couture. And, his hands are pretty special. Hes a gifted player. Hopefully we can find some chemistry right away and play well tonight.

Another season debut: We touched on this yesterday, but forward Benn Ferriero will see his first NHL game of the season tonight. Ferriero took line rushes again today with Michal Handzus and Torrey Mitchell on the designated third line, but if the Sharks fail to create much offense early on, McLellan could move Ferriero even higher in the lineup.

We need some production from lines one, two and three, and we think that he could move up a line if he had to or two lines, if he had to, said McLellan.

Containing Kovalchuk: Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk has gotten off to a strong start, registering four points in the first four games. He also leads the league in ice time among forwards with more than 27 minutes a game.

The Russian sniper had a goal and an assist against the Sharks the last time these two teams met on Feb. 11 of last season, breaking a 1-1 tie late in the third period.

Whites return: Sharks defenseman Colin White spent the first 10 years of his career in New Jersey, and therefore had never seen the visiting locker room at the Prudential Center. White has gotten off to a so-so start with the Sharks, but hell be on the ice tonight when they try to pick up victory 2.

Its a little different, White said of being at his former home in a different colored jersey.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in goal for San Jose. Johan Hedberg will be in net for New Jersey, with Martin Brodeur out with a bruised shoulder. Its the third time the Sharks will be facing a backup. The Devils havent played since last Saturday, when they beat Nashville in a shootout.

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.