Sharks

Sharks, Jets show NHL's scoring boom not created equal

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AP

Sharks, Jets show NHL's scoring boom not created equal

If you solely looked at the San Jose Sharks’ scoring totals, you’d think they were much improved over last season.

After 39 games, they’ve scored 10 more goals this season (107) than they did last year (97). That translates to about 0.25 goals per game, which looks like substantial progress on its own.

Of course, that ignores league-wide context. At this time last season, the Sharks were tied-for 19th in goals for, when they’re tied-for 27th entering Sunday.

That’s because scoring is up, league-wide. As ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski noted in November, more goals are being scored for a litany of reasons, including the league’s crackdown on slashing and the Vegas Golden Knights’ entry into the league.

Teams are, on average, averaging 2.95 goals per game, the highest average since 2006-07. That’s 0.18 more per game than last season.

San Jose’s opponent on Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets, are among the teams to most benefit from the scoring boom. In 42 games, they’ve scored 139 goals, 25 more than last year after the same number of games, and 0.4 more per game.

Given where the two teams stood entering the season, this makes perfect sense.

Winnipeg didn’t lose any significant players this offseason, and as the league’s fifth-youngest team according to NHL Numbers, benefit from another year under their belts. Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and (now-injured) Mark Scheifele form one of the league’s most prolific young cores.

San Jose, meanwhile, lost Patrick Marleau, their third-leading goal-scorer, and did nothing to replace his production. The Sharks have their own promising group of young forwards emerging, but they’re still the league’s fifth-oldest team, and that emergence has been much more muted than Winnipeg’s.

The NHL’s scoring boom is a rising tide that’s lifted all boats, but has not lifted all boats equally. Apologies for the mixed metaphor, but those notions will be on full display during Sunday’s matinee between the Sharks and Jets.

Winnipeg was one of the best offensive teams last year, and they’re even better this season, compared to the rest of the league. San Jose was not, and they’re even worse compared to the rest of the league.

You can take solace in the Sharks' offensive “improvement.” but you must do so at your own risk. The rest of the league has, on average, also improved, and teams like Winnipeg have improved far more.

All together, that’s rendered San Jose's own increase largely meaningless.

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

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USATSI

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

Kevin Labanc’s first period goal in the Sharks’ Sunday win over the Ducks certainly didn’t look like it was just his fifth of the season, or only his third since opening night.

The 22-year-old, sprung in alone on a breakaway, sold Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on a fake shot with a leg kick, and snapped the puck past him into the top corner. You know a ‘goal-scorers goal’ when you see it, and you saw it 3:38 into the second period.

Labanc not only broke a 12-game, month-long goalless drought, but picked up his third point in as many games after scoring zero in his previous six. Despite his emergence as a force on the power play, all three points came during five-on-five play.

He’s generated six scoring chances in five-on-five situations in his last three games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s as many as Labanc accounted for in the six games preceding this run.

The same can be said about his five-on-five shot attempts (seven) and high-danger chances (two). His six shots on goal in his last three games are just one shy of also matching his five-on-five output over his six games prior.

In those categories, Labanc ranks third, third, and tied for second among Sharks forwards, as well as third in five-on-five scoring chances. He’s also tied with Mikkel Boedker for the forward-lead in five-on-five points over the last three games, despite playing only the eighth-most five-on-five minutes.

As Labanc’s broken out of an extended slump, so have the Sharks. Since returning from the bye week on Jan. 13, San Jose is fifth in five-on-five scoring rate (3.1 goals for/60 minutes), compared to 28th before their bye (1.91).

They’re also 5-1-0 during that time.

The Sharks, much like Labanc, were too reliant upon power play production prior to the NHL-mandated week off. Over half of Labanc’s points came with (at least) a man advantage, and 32 of San Jose’s 108 were scored on the power play.

Since, the second-year forward has only scored five-on-five points, while only five of the Sharks’ 23 goals were power play tallies. The power play’s still converting, but it’s not been the sole driver of San Jose’s offense.

It’s only a six-game sample, but the early five-on-five, post-bye week returns are promising for Labanc and the Sharks. The next step for both is to maintain that pace.

If Labanc and San Jose can, the Sharks may not need to shop for a top-six winger at the trade deadline after all.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.