Sharks in position for another memorable road trip

Sharks in position for another memorable road trip

Joel Ward said before the Sharks road trip that it was “probably not” possible for the club to win all six games, like it did last November in impressive and somewhat historic fashion.

Perhaps Ward is rethinking that notion now. San Jose has put together impressive back-to-back wins in Washington and Florida, a pair of Eastern Conference clubs that are expected to contend this season. On Thursday night, they erased an early 2-0 hole to beat the Panthers in South Florida, 4-2.

The first period wasn’t a good one for San Jose, as former defenseman Jason Demers struck twice. The first came after a Martin Jones turnover behind the net, and seconds later Tommy Wingels redirected Demers’ shot through his goaltender. On the second, it was Ward’s turnover at the opposing blue line that resulted in a rush the other way, and Demers eventually deposited a Jaromir Jagr rebound after the future Hall of Famer was given too much room to operate in the offensive zone.

Jones made a key save on Keith Yandle late in the period, though, leading to a Brent Burns goal that will go immediately on the Wookiee’s highlight reel. The sequence completely changed the tide of the game.

“That was a heck of an individual effort by Brent on that one, and it gave us momentum going into the second,” Tommy Wingels told CSN after the game.

Speaking to reporters, Pete DeBoer said: “Our first period was not good. Jones made some big saves and Burns got a big goal to keep us in it, and gave us a chance to get through it. We came in and regrouped, and I liked our game from there forward.”

Ward and Wingels both played a role in the comeback, too, after the earlier misplays. 

On Joe Pavelski’s game-tying goal early in the second, it was Ward who hustled across the ice to grab a loose puck on the wall and feed the captain. Ward has points in consecutive games, and is looking like he could be a long-term fit on the top line.

Wingels is also resurrecting his Sharks career after he was anything but a lock to make the opening night roster. The fourth line, with Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson, was arguably the team’s best from start to finish. It was rewarded with Wingels’ decisive score with about 11 minutes to go in regulation.

“I think we compliment each other well,” Wingels said. “We’re tenacious on the puck, we want to play quick, take the shot when its there and get greasy goals. … We were happy that Pete scored some confidence in us throughout the game.”

One player on the other side wasn’t the least bit surprised in the Sharks picking up their game after the first period. After joining the team for the second half of last season, James Reimer was playing against San Jose for the first time since signing a five-year contract with Florida in the summer.

“They’re a good team, and we were probably talking in the first [intermission] about how they didn’t have their best,” Reimer told reporters. “You expect that they’re going to up their game. I thought, for the most part, we matched it. It was a good hockey game for 60 minutes. Unfortunately, we fell short this time.”

Demers, another fan favorite in San Jose during his five-plus seasons with the Sharks, scored his first two goals in a Panthers sweater. But he wasn’t in a mood to celebrate after the game.

“I don’t care if I get four goals. If we don’t win, it doesn’t mean anything,” Demers said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”

Of the Sharks’ four remaining games on their trip, two in particular stand out as challenging. First, it’s the Lightning on Saturday, a club that is among the fastest in the league. The Sharks have had a rough time with those types of teams so far, losing decisively to the Penguins, Rangers and Red Wings.

After visiting Carolina, they’ll have a Western Conference Final rematch with St. Louis, which should be plenty motivated, and close it out against a weak Arizona team.

They are in a position to make it another memorable road trip.

“We just have to stay with what we’ve got, and believe in ourselves and the process,” Ward told reporters.

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play's been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it. 

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win


SAN JOSE -- Jannik Hansen scored his first goal of the season and fellow fourth-liners Eric Fehr and Barclay Goodrow also scored to help the San Jose Sharks win their season-high fifth straight game, 6-2 over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture added his 30th goal of the season, and Joe Pavelski and Mikkel Boedker also scored to give the Sharks a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.

Brent Burns added three assists and Martin Jones made 26 saves.

The scoring barrage by San Jose spoiled Cory Schneider's return to net for the Devils. Schneider allowed four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled midway through the second period of his first start since March 8. Schneider has lost 11 starts in a row since his last win for the Devils on Dec. 27.

Taylor Hall scored his 32nd goal of the season and Blake Coleman also scored for the Devils, who lead Florida by just one point in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have two games in hand.

After Hansen and Fehr scored in the first period, Goodrow chipped one in midway through the second period on a surprising night of scoring from the fourth line when he beat Schneider on a 2-on-1.

Couture then scored 40 seconds later on San Jose's first shot against Keith Kinkaid for his third career 30-goal season. Boedker added San Jose's second power-play goal of the night late in the second and the rout was on.

The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first game back from a 3-0 Canadian road trip, scoring three goals in the first period and killing 1:20 of a two-man advantage for New Jersey.

The teams traded goals to start with Fehr beating Schneider over the shoulder from a bad angle and Hall answering when he stole a bouncing puck from Justin Braunand beat Jones with a quick shot.

San Jose then scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead. Pavelski tipped in a shot from Kevin Labanc on the power play to give the Sharks the lead.

Then after Jones denied Damon Severson from in close at one end, Dylan DeMelo sent a long pass that Hansen chased down and then beat Schneider on a breakaway for his first goal since March 30, 2017.

NOTES: DeMelo has 10 assists this month. ... San Jose D Brenden Dillon has a five-game point streak. ... Devils F Miles Wood (upper body) was scratched and Jesper Bratt played in his place.


Devils: Visit Pittsburgh on Friday.

Sharks: Host Vegas on Thursday.