Sharks -- Midseason Report Part 1


Sharks -- Midseason Report Part 1

While the hockey world turns its attention to Ottawa for the NHL All-Star Game, we turn our attention to the first half in San Jose, with analysis of who did what for the Sharks, and the outlook for each player in the second half. Saturday we'll take a look at the attacking end of the ice.

Dan Boyle Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: One of the biggest questions surrounding the Sharks in the first two months of the season was, whats wrong with Dan Boyle? The versatile defenseman was turning the puck over, not getting open for shots, and not showing his trademark skating prowess. When he revealed he was suffering through a broken foot during that time, it made much more sense, and Boyle is once again at the top of his game. Along with new partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks can boast of one of the best top defense pairings in the Western Conference.
Second half outlook: Boyles early struggles are behind him, and hes once again one of the most important and productive players on the team, getting more than 25 minutes on a nightly basis.

Justin Braun Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Braun seized his opportunity when he was recalled from Worcester (twice), and its doubtful hes going to be seeing any more time in the American Hockey League. He could probably be a little bit more physical at times, as he doesnt lack in size, but thats something he will learn as he gets more and more acquainted to the NHL.
Second half outlook: Braun could be a target for NHL general managers looking for a solid prospect on defense, but its more likely San Jose would offer up Demers before Braun if it came to that. For now, Braun is a solid third-pair defenseman.

RELATED: Sharks -- midseason statistical analysis

Brent Burns Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Quite possibly the hardest Sharks player to evaluate in the first half. Burns himself admitted even recently hes just now settling in and getting used to the nuances in the Sharks system as compared with Minnesota. His offensive numbers can only be considered a disappointment at the break, but he was showing more of a knack of jumping into the play in the offensive zone to create more scoring chances for him and his teammates in recent weeks.
Second half outlook: Burns appeared to dodge disaster after a knee-on-knee hit in Edmonton on Monday, but may need at least a couple of games off coming out of the break to recover. After that, the key for Burns will be maintaining his solid defensive play while trying to generate more goals and scoring chances he was known for in Minnesota.

Jason Demers Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Demers was benched early in the season before finding his game in early November. He still has work to do if hes going to be a top four defenseman, but typically brings more to the ice than veterans Colin White and Jim Vandermeer on the teams third defense pair.
Second half outlook: The Sharks have depth at defense when fully healthy, which could be a good motivator for Demers, who knows hell have to maintain his game or risk coming out of the lineup again.

Douglas Murray Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Another player who missed significant time to injury (10 games in December), Murray is still one of the Sharks few players that can provide a nightly physical presence. Hes been split up from regular partner Dan Boyle since he got hurt, and now with Brent Burns forms a solid second defense pair.
Second half outlook: Murray is still a reliable top-4 defenseman that can be hard to play against, and seems to have found some chemistry with Burns since regaining his game legs after the injury.

Jim Vandermeer Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: For an eighth defenseman, Jim Vandermeer is about as solid as you can get, and hes made a good account of himself when in the lineup. Thats been rare, though, as the Sharks juggled their eight healthy defensemen for the first couple months before Vandermeer suffered a broken left hand in early December.
Second half outlook: Vandermeer will continue to be used sparingly, probably getting into games that have more a physical element. If the Sharks suffer any significant injuries to their defensemen, Vandermeer is still a good guy to have available.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Arguably the Sharks most valuable player at the break. Vlasic has been a rock on defense, and is probably the biggest reason the team has thrived five-on-five. Hes quite possibly the best defenseman in the league that no ones ever heard of on the East Coast, if you couldnt tell by the All-Star nominees.
Second half outlook: Vlasic will continue to play against the opponents top line with Dan Boyle as his partner. Its hard to imagine that will change at any point in the second half.
Colin White Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: White was not very good when the season started, and was in and out of the lineup until he suffered a hand injury. He had been improving until he was hurt in early December, and is still a good depth guy, but will probably find himself watching from the press box most nights when everyone is healthy.
Second half outlook: Like Jim Vandermeer, White is still a serviceable NHL defenseman in case of emergency.

Thomas Greiss Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Since beginning the year as that Sharks starting goalie for the three games while Antti Niemi recovered from minor surgery, Greiss has settled in and proven himself as a capable NHL backup. Hes allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts (albeit against Columbus twice, and Edmonton), and has outstanding numbers, allowing the club to jettison the veteran (and higher salaried) Antero Niittymaki.
Second half outlook: Niemi will continue to get the majority of the work in net, but with a busy February and March that includes a number of back-to-back games, Greiss will likely see between six and eight more starts. Theres no reason to think his success wont continue.
Antti Niemi Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Niemis beginning of the year was just so-so, but after missing all of training camp and the start of the season, thats understandable. Since then, hes generally looked like the Niemi from last years second half. He struggled leading up to the break in games against Ottawa and Vancouver, but righted the ship with Tuesdays shutout in Calgary.
Second half outlook: Niemi is better when hes getting a lot of work, and hell have plenty with the Sharks hectic schedule. The key will be to not overwork him before the playoffs as the club was forced to do last year, tiring him out for the playoffs.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks


Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks


SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.


Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.