Sharks

Sharks to face supremely confident Stars

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Sharks to face supremely confident Stars

DALLAS A lengthy flight halfway across the country always provides a good chance to get caught up with news from around the league.

KURZ: Sharks vs. Stars, what to watch for

While perusing the daily clips on Wednesday, I immediately flipped to the Dallas Stars, of course. Theres one thing thats abundantly clear and jumps off the page (screen?) after reading some of the material coming from here in the Lone Star State, and that is - when the Sharks take the ice at the American Airlines Center on Thursday night, they will be facing a supremely confident group.

RELATED: Momentum swings help, hurt Sharks

Dallas 7-0-1 surge has it atop the Pacific Division, when it appeared as recently as a couple weeks ago that the team would inevitably miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth straight season. Buyers at the trade deadline were scanning the Stars roster, looking to poach a player or two for the stretch run.

Instead, the Stars kept their team together, and their success since even has one writer wondering if the club can make the sort of run that some of its neighbors did the past two seasons namely, the 2010 Texas Rangers (who lost the World Series) and 2011 Dallas Mavericks (the defending NBA champions).

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News writes:

Sure, blow the thing up, trade everyone who could be a UFA in the summer. Go with kids, stock up on draft picks, fall to the floor of the NHL and hope for as many losses as possible. Isnt that what a great many of us thought just two weeks ago?

And now what? Could this team really win the Pacific Division and get home ice in the first round of the playoffs? Could they possibly go a round or two deep? Could they join the Rangers and Mavericks as miraculous stories?

Who knows? Thats why we watch.

As for the players themselves, theyre riding high after a comfortable 5-2 road win over the powerful Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, their third in a row.

Mike Ribeiro told the AP:

"We just stuck with our game plan and kept pushing forward. It's a team concept right now, and everyone's doing the right thing."

The Sharks, on the other hand, are at the other end of the spectrum. The team has won just four of its last 16 games after a 5-2 win over the Stars on Feb. 2, and dropped three of four games at home leading up to this pivotal four-game road trip.

San Jose, which had a 10-point lead on the Stars after beating them in early February, now trails Dallas by three points with two games in hand. A win over the streaking Stars would likely do a lot for their own confidence as they look to turn things around and secure a fifth straight division crown.

Will the confidence factor play a role in what may be San Joses biggest game of the season?

Well find out soon enough.

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.