Sharks

Sharks notes: Strong start for Hertl

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Sharks notes: Strong start for Hertl

The Sharks organization’s list of blue chip prospects is a brief one, due in large part to consistent regular season success and high-profile trades like the one that brought them defenseman Brent Burns two summers ago.

Recent first round pick Tomas Hertl, though, is one player to keep an eye on.

Currently in his second full season in the Czech Extraliga, the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft is leading his team (HC Slavia Praha) in scoring with 19 points (11g, 8a) in 26 games, including four power play goals. He’s tied for 15th in the league in goals and 28th in scoring.

Making Hertl’s numbers even more impressive is that the Czech league employs several players much older and more seasoned than the 19-year-old, and the competition has only gotten better during the lockout. Among Hertl’s teammates are 25-year-old Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, while established veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Plekanec and David Krejci have all suited up for Czech teams while the NHL is embroiled in a labor dispute.
Hertl had 25 points in 38 games last year, and his success against older, more experienced players in his first full season was one of the biggest reasons the Sharks made him their first round choice in Pittsburgh in June.

“He plays with men and has been very successful already,” Wilson told CSNCalifornia.com on draft day. “We just expect him to mature.”

Wilson and company have got to be happy with that maturation so far.

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Hertl, who had five points in six games in the World Junior Championships last winter, was one of two Sharks players invited to their respective country’s selection camp for the upcoming tournament. The other is Sean Kuraly, an American who dazzled at the national evaluation camp this summer in Lake Placid, NY, with six points (4g, 2a) in three games.

Kuraly is off to a slow start this year, with just three points (2g, 1a) in his first 14 games as a freshman at Miami of Ohio. Kuraly was drafted in the fifth round (133rd overall) of the 2011 draft by San Jose.

Wilson doesn’t like to put pressure on individual players coming up through the system, but was complimentary of Kuraly when I asked about him in October after he turned heads in Lake Placid.

“He showed what he’s capable of at that camp. That’s really all I’m going to say,” Wilson said. “I think you’ll see in the World Juniors this year, you’ll see some stuff.”

The World Juniors begin on Dec. 26 in Ufa, Russia, and conclude on Jan. 5.

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Douglas Murray is the latest Sharks player returning to North America, according to a Swedish website.

A Google translation of the release – always a bit tricky – seems to suggest that Murray, 32, who played 14 games with second-tier club Djurgarden, could return to Sweden if the NHL cancels the 2012-13 season.

TJ Galiardi (Germany), Antti Niemi (Finland) and Logan Couture (Switzerland) have all returned to North America recently after playing abroad. Marty Havlat is also back in the Bay Area, after spending several months in the Czech Republic with his new daughter.

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

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USATSI

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now. 

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

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USATSI

Sharks face surprisingly tough test in Avalanche

On a night when Eric Lindros is getting his number retired, who would have thought one of the NHL's best games involves a team that was the worst a season ago, and another features a team that didn't even exist last year?

Okay, most of the hockey world's eyes will be glued to tonight's Golden Knights-Lightning tilt in Tampa, which surely felt just as weird to write as it did for you to read. But Sharks-Avalanche could have that game beat, and not just because Long Beach native Matt Nieto will play against his former team.

No, the Sharks and Avalanche just happen to be two of the hottest teams in the league.

San Jose has won three in a row, and along with Nashville, holds the league's third-longest active winning streak. Colorado, meanwhile, has won seven in a row, and along with Calgary, holds the league's longest streak.

The Avalanche have not lost in 2018, and since their streak began on Dec. 29, have scored the third-most goals and allowed the fewest. With starter Semyon Varlamov out with a groin strain, backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has stopped all but seven of the shots he's seen, good for a .962 save percentage.

Nathan Mackinnon has emerged as an under-the-radar Hart Trophy candidate, or at least he would have been under-the-radar if seemingly the entire hockey world hadn't made the same observation. He's no longer a dark horse, though, and may be the frontrunner if Colorado is even sniffing the postseason at the end of the year.

After all, the Avalanche were far closer to the 1992-93 Sharks than Colorado's glory days last season, losing the ninth-most games in a single season in NHL history. Entering Thursday, the Avalanche are just two points out of the final wild card spot.

To further drive home just how remarkable the turnaround's been, the Avalanche already have three more points than last season. In 39 fewer games.

Colorado may not be as good as they've been over the last seven games, when they've also led the league in PDO, the sum of save percentage and shooting percentage often used as a shorthand for luck. But during the stretch, the Avalanche are also a positive puck possession team when adjusting for score and venue, according to Natural Stat Trick, and eighth in adjusted corsi-for percentage during the win streak, per Corsica Hockey.

The Sharks, too, have been playing much better than before the bye. Two of the wins on their three-game streak have come against the cellar-dwelling Coyotes, though, and they needed overtime and a shootout to beat them.

The Avalanche will then represent the toughest test for the Sharks following the week off, and a potentially thorny end to their three-game road trip. Who would have thought?