Sharks

Sharks spotlight: Justin Braun

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Sharks spotlight: Justin Braun

Editor's note: Over the next month, CSNCalifornia.com Sharks Insider Kevin Kurz and Postgame Live reporter Brodie Brazil will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Sharks spotlight -- the series
Sharks spotlight: Justin BraunAge: 25 DIn his second NHL season, defenseman Justin Braun had twogoals and nine assists for 11 points and 23 penalty minutes in 66 games. He wasscoreless with 15 penalty minutes in five playoff games.Kurz says: If in 20 years Braun looks back on whatwas a long and prosperous career, hell remember the 2011-12 season as the onein which he established himself as an everyday NHL player. Braun started theseason in Worcester, but was recalled on Oct. 22 thanks mostly to Jason Demersearly struggles. He was in and out of the lineup for about a month and a half,returned to Worcester at the end of November, but was back after just two gameswhen Douglas Murray got hurt for the first time.Braun cemented his place in the lineup late in the seasonwhen he was put on the second power play unit, and he played in all but twogames after the All-Star break. After beginning the year ninth on the depthchart, Braun was a more effective and valuable player than Murray, JasonDemers, Colin White and the rarely used Jim Vandermeer by the time the seasonwas through.SLIDESHOW: Grading the Sharks
Brodie says: It waskind of cool that Braun regularly wore a Worcester Sharks t-shirt underhis shoulder pads this season. But itwas quite clear after success midway through the NHL campaign, that he was notheaded back to Massachusetts anytime soon.Its a regular question asked: who is the best skater on theteam? And although Patrick Marleau andTorrey Mitchell might have the speed contest won, Justin Braun displays someimpressive skills. Long levers enableJustin to accelerate with power. As wellin the offensive zone, he changes angles up high; moving the puck laterallyalong the blueline with grace and quickness thanks to some impressivetechnique. Yes, a lot of d-men do this,but not many with the fancy footwork of Braun.
It should also be pointed out that Braun has (at least) abetter-than-average shot from the point.Similar to skating, his physical build offers a lot of torque when hewinds up for a slap shot, but also can put some good velocityaccuracy on awrister as well.Justin and Tommy Wingels could be thrown in the samebig-picture evaluation. Both hadestablishing seasons with the Sharks, where they were called in and made themost of opportunities given earning regular spots in the lineup. For Braun, it was even a tougher job tocrack, given the lesser starting spots for a defenseman. 2012-13 expectationsKurz says: While he shouldnt be considered untouchable likeLogan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who look to be future cornerstones ofthe franchise, Justin Braun is among San Joses most valuable young players. Heis defensively responsible, has good size, can contribute on the power play,and has shown strong leadership qualities despite a young age. Thats why, whenthe Sharks were eliminated in the postseason, Braun was asked to play for Team USAin the World Championships the first time hes ever represented his countryin international play.
Brauns spot on the 2012-13 roster is a virtual certainty,and theres no reason to think he wont continue his progress.RELATED: Justin Brauns stats splits game logs
Brodie says: My biggest question for guys like Braun andTommy Wingels will they be the first Shark players in a while to trade intheir rookie jersey numbers for lower ones?In all seriousness, we know he will get the opportunity, butits going to be important for Justin to maintain this year not only hisprogress as a young player but also his development. The good news is that he set the bar high,but not impossibly out of reach, so that achieving expectations is somethingattainable. He has all the right ingredients: youth, strength, size,speed, and so far what appears to be a noticeably high hockey IQ at the NHLlevel. Essentially, there seems to be amassive amount of potential for the American defenseman, but maybe the best approachis to focus on the shorter-term. Andthat would be to continue producing on the second power play unit, and tryingto crack a consistent spot as a top-4 D.
Up next: Andrew Desjardins

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

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AP

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

It turns out the top-six winger the Sharks needed to replace Patrick Marleau was on the roster all along.

Joonas Donskoi skated on Logan Couture’s line in Monday night’s shootout loss to the Ducks, and was San Jose’s best player. He scored the Sharks’ only two goals, and tied for the team-lead among forwards with four shots on net.

Donskoi added another goal in the ninth-round shootout, but his two goals in regulation were his sixth and seventh on the season. With those goals, he surpassed his total from an injury-riddled campaign a year ago, and stands three tallies clear as San Jose’s second-leading goal-scorer this season.

Due to Melker Karlsson’s injury, Donskoi skated with the Sharks’ leading goal-scorer, Logan Couture, and rekindled the strong chemistry the pair has shown since the Finnish winger arrived in San Jose in 2015.

Of the nine lines Couture has skated on for at least 50 minutes dating back to the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the three best in terms of puck possession have had Donskoi on his wing. Those three combinations have controlled at least 54 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts, according to Corsica Hockey.

Adding Tomas Hertl, who’s already a strong possession player, to that line bodes well for an even stronger second line moving forward. With Karlsson on the wing, the line controlled only 47.7 percent of the shot attempts, per Corsica, meaning the Sharks have been routinely out-possessed with them on the ice.

That was not the case with Donskoi in Karlsson’s place, as Donskoi posted positive possession numbers alongside Couture and Hertl on Monday, according to Natural Stat Trick. The results were there, as evidenced by the game’s opening goal, but it’s a good sign that the process was, too.

The same, frankly, can be said of Donskoi’s entire season up to this point. He likely won’t convert on over 18 percent of his shots all season, of course, but the Sharks have the puck more often than their opponents when he’s on the ice, and should continue to generate pressure, chances, and ultimately goals, even if Donskoi’s personal scoring comes down.

When Karlsson comes back, Donskoi should remain on Couture and Hertl’s line. That would allow the former to slide into a role better-suited to his game, and the latter to bolster San Jose’s top-six forward group.

Donskoi’s earned an extended look in that spot thanks to his resurgence, and subsequent emergence, this season. Thanks to him, replacing Marleau’s production suddenly seems much less daunting.

Two Donskoi goals not enough as Sharks fall to Ducks in shootout

Two Donskoi goals not enough as Sharks fall to Ducks in shootout

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Antoine Vermette beat goalie Martin Jones in the ninth round of a shootout to give the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Monday night.

Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour also scored during the tiebreaker for Anaheim.

Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed and Brent Burns had shootout goals for the Sharks. Tomas Hertl missed his attempt in the ninth round, leaving Vermette a chance to win it.

Perry and Rickard Rakell scored in regulation for the Ducks. Reto Berra made 40 saves in his first start of the season.

Donskoi had two goals for the Sharks, including the tying score in the third period. Jones stopped 28 shots.

Donskoi helped create his own goal by knocking the puck away from a Ducks defender and getting it to Logan Couture for a give-and-go as the Sharks took a 1-0 lead 3:31 into the game.

The Ducks came back in the second period to even the score 45 seconds in. After winning a faceoff in the San Jose zone, Brandon Montour sent a sharp pass to Perry's stick. Perry settled it and fired into the net for the equalizer.

Rakell gave the Ducks a 2-1 advantage midway through the second, just as a power play ended. Perry took a shot that bounced off Jones' pads, and Rakell knocked it into the net before Jones could cover up.

The Sharks snapped an 0-for-17 streak on the power play with a goal midway through the third to tie it. Donskoi tracked down a rebound and flipped it off Berra's right pad and into the net for his second career multi-goal game.

NOTES: Ducks D Cam Fowler returned to action after missing 12 games with a knee injury. ... Sharks C Melker Karlsson missed the game with an upper-body injury. ... Sharks forward Kevin Labanc, who hasn't played much recently, started on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Donskoi was moved to the second line. ... Ducks G Ryan Miller missed the game with a lower-body injury. Berra made his fourth appearance this season. ... Perry has seven points in his last five games. ... Rakell has a point in seven of his past eight games, with a total of 11 during that span. ... The Sharks scored their second power-play goal in eight November games.

UP NEXT

Ducks: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Sharks: Play at the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday.