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.

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.