Sharks get first look at surprisingly forward-thinking Blue Jackets blueline


Sharks get first look at surprisingly forward-thinking Blue Jackets blueline

Sharks defensemen Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are a traditional ‘shutdown’ pairing, but their Friday night counterparts are anything but. 

That’s not surprising, since Blue Jackets blueliners Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, who have spent more five-on-five minutes together than any other defensive pairing according to Corsica, play for notably forward-thinking head coach...John Tortorella? 

"A shutdown pair in our game now is being up the ice, having the puck and doing things in that end, so you're not defending all the time," Tortorella told last week

That John Tortorella? 

Yes, that Tortorella. The man who’s long decried the use of puck possession metrics like Corsi and Fenwick while repeating any number of hockey cliches to anyone who would listen, now sounds like he’s angling for the keynote at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. 

Tortorella’s backed up his words with forward-thinking usage this season. Jones and Werenski have started 57.89 percent of their non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone, the highest among the 27 pairings that have played 500 five-on-five minutes together as of Thursday.

Plus, the pair has seen a pretty even distribution of top competition, as the following charts from Micah McCurdy’s show. 

The blue bars in the upper right of both graphs represents each player’s ice time against opposing forward by their position on the depth chart. The red ‘stairs’ represent league-average ice time against that depth chart position. 

Jones and Werenski, then, play above-average minutes against opposing teams’ top-four forwards, and slightly below average-to-average time against the rest of the group. All things considered, Tortorella distributes their minutes pretty evenly. 

By contrast, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer uses Braun and Vlasic in a far more traditional sense. Out of the previously mentioned 27 pairings, the two started the lowest percentage of their non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone (38.68) as of Thursday.

Braun and Vlasic also see much more time against their opponents’ top forwards.

That’s above-average or average time against a team’s top-six forwards, and below-average minutes against the bottom-six. Unsurprisingly, Braun and Vlasic see a lot less of the puck in their offensive zone (47.23 percent adjusted corsi-for percentage) in five-on-five situations than Jones and Werenski (55.47 percent). 

Why the stark difference? It likely comes down to personnel.

Columbus also relies on Jones (33 points, second on Columbus) and Werenski (22, fifth) for offense, while Vlasic and Braun’s assignments free up San Jose’s best offensive defenseman and leading scorer, Brent Burns. The Blue Jackets have a celebratory cannon, but they don’t have the same firepower aside from their shutdown defenders that the Sharks do. 

Don’t call it an advanced stats awakening just yet, as San Jose’s still a better possession team than Columbus. Nevertheless, it’s surprising to see the notoriously old-school Tortorella ahead of the curve on anything, let alone player usage. 

In a season where an expansion team sits atop the Western Conference standings, though, maybe we should have expected it. 

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline


Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline


SAN JOSE --Brent Burns and Chris Tierney each had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday for their third win in four games.

Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Sorensen also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-1 against the Canucks this season. Martin Jones stopped 29 shots.

Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks, who lost their sixth in seven games. Anders Nilsson made 40 stops.

Boedker scored at 8:41 of the first period, picking up a soft rebound from Tierney's shot.

Burns scored his 10th goal, tops among NHL defensemen, taking a pass from Joakim Ryan and sending a laser shot into the net just under five minutes into the second.

Sorensen scored his first goal since Dec. 23, punching it in with an assist from Justin Braun at 3:06 into the third. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had an assist in his third straight game, getting the second assist on Sorensen's goal.

Sedin scored at 6:43, taking a nice pass from Thomas Vanek that gave him clear shot into the net. It was Sedin's 14th goal, one shy of his total last season.

Tierney made it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Burns with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

NOTES:Tim Heed was recalled from the AHL and joined a makeshift Sharks lineup, allowing Burns to play up front at times. ... Sharks C Logan Couture has points in four of his last five games. ... Boedker recorded games in consecutive games for the second time this season, and the first since Jan. 15-16. ... Sedin has five points against the Sharks this season and 45 in 69 games. He's recorded points in three straight.


Canucks: Host Boston on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Dallas on Sunday.

Sharks co-prez: Original fin logo to 'start showing back up again'


Sharks co-prez: Original fin logo to 'start showing back up again'

Fans of the original set of San Jose Sharks logos can rejoice: The fin is coming back in a yet-to-be-announced capacity. 

The original secondary logo, a gray fin atop a teal background enclosed by a black circle, "will start showing back up again in a special surprise appearance next year," Sharks co-president Jonathan Becher told NBC Sports California in an interview with Brodie Brazil and alongside co-president John Tortora on Sharks Pregame Live. The logo appeared as a shoulder patch on the team's home and away jerseys from 1991-98, and on its black alternate jersey from 2001-07.

Becher did not elaborate what form that 'special surprise appearance' will take, but it's possible it will appear on an alternate jersey. In Adidas' first season as the league's jersey manufacturer, no teams have alternate jerseys this year, aside from the teams that played in the league's various outdoor games. 

That's reportedly set to change next season. 24-26 teams will have alternate jerseys, the league told Greg Wyshynski in June, and some teams will utilize previous designs. The Sharks wore a version of their original teal jersey as a 25th anniversary alternate during the 2015-16 season -- perhaps it will return next season? 

Becher also told NBC Sports California that the team's newest alternate logo, the 'yelling shark' featured on the shoulders of their current teal jerseys, will begin making more appearances. It will not replace the current logo, Becher said.