Sharks

Thornton, Marleau inching closer to leaving Sharks

Thornton, Marleau inching closer to leaving Sharks

In less than 48 hours, the two men most associated with the San Jose Sharks for more than a decade could be packing their bags. It’s nearly impossible to picture the Sharks without Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but that may soon become a reality, as each player will be free to sign elsewhere at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

To be clear, the door hasn’t closed yet on either – or both – returning to San Jose. At the same time, there have been no indications that the Sharks are remotely close to coming to an agreement with either one. The chances that the Sharks announce anything with either player before Saturday’s opening bell are slim to none.

There will be concrete offers on the table from other teams to ponder, and based on reports since the window opened on Sunday for them to speak with other clubs, there will plenty of them.

In Thornton’s case, a recent report had the Los Angeles Kings in hot pursuit. That doesn’t mean the Kings are his most likely destination, just that more information leaked out of Southern California than anywhere else. You can be sure that there is plenty of interest elsewhere for Thornton’s services, and although he may prefer to stay close to the Bay Area if he doesn’t remain with the Sharks, other teams like the Rangers, Blues, Predators, Penguins or Maple Leafs might be more appealing.

As for Marleau, his name has been linked to the Ducks, Predators, Maple Leafs and Flames – with Calgary, especially, looking more like a potential fit as it’s driving distance from his hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan – but, again, there are certain to be more teams than those listed that have inquired about his services.

In recent days, some credible national reporters have pointed out that Marleau returning to San Jose is of vital importance to Thornton, which is consistent with what we reported back on May 22. Frankly, it seems that not much has changed since that piece, as hopeful Sharks fans have come to realize there were never any back-room handshake agreements with the pair for after the June 21 expansion draft.

But it’s worth repeating that Thornton does, in fact, want to win with his longtime teammate by his side. 

Back on Jan. 14, 2014, when the Sharks announced three-year contract extensions for both, Thornton’s deal had been done for some time. He preferred to wait for Marleau’s to be done, too, so they could announce them on the same day. That’s further evidence of how much Thornton respects the longest-tenured Sharks player, and how he may only want to come back to San Jose if the Sharks get Marleau signed, too.

If that’s a hill that Thornton is willing to die on, it could mean they will both depart. Put another way, if the Sharks aren’t willing to extend multi-year offers to both Thornton and Marleau, it may be the end of an era.

Sharks to open second round Thursday

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AP

Sharks to open second round Thursday

The Sharks know when they'll open the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. T

San Jose will face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the second round at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, April 26 in Sin City, the NHL announced Tuesday. The league also announced start dates for the three other second-round series, but did not announce any games beyond that.

Game 2 will "likely" occur Saturday at 5 p.m, according to Golden Knights owner Bill Foley. 

Game 1 will be televised on NBCSN. Sharks Playoff Central will air on NBC Sports California at 6:30 p.m. leading up to puck drop, with a postgame edition to follow after the final horn on the same channel. 

Red-hot Sharks power play, Golden Knights penalty kill on collision course

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AP

Red-hot Sharks power play, Golden Knights penalty kill on collision course

The Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights were the first two teams to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The former's power play, and the latter's penalty kill were among the chief reasons why. 

This postseason, San Jose's power play (30 percent) and Vegas' penalty kill (92.3 percent) are third-best and best in the respective categories. The Sharks haven't played in nearly a week, but have still scored the second-most power play goals (six) in the first round as of Tuesday. The Golden Knights haven't played in exactly a week, and have still given up the fewer power play goals (one)  than every team, save for the Los Angeles Kings, who they swept in the first round. 

On the season, the San Jose power play and the Vegas penalty kill were among the better units in the league in terms of underlying numbers, but really improved down the stretch. Over their last 25 regular season games and the first round, the Sharks attempted shots (117.15 corsi-for per hour) and generated expected goals (9.13 expected goals-for per hour)) at rates that would have ranked second in each area on the whole season, according to Corsica Hockey.

During the Golden Knights' final 25 regular season games and first four playoff games, their penalty kill suppressed shot attempts (92.8 corsi-against per hour), shots (49.97 shots-against per hour), and expected goals (5.9 expected goals-against per hour) at rates that would have ranked second, fourth, and first, respectively, this past season.

In the first round, the results finally caught up to the underlying numbers for both teams. San Jose converted on only 13 percent of its power plays in the final 25 games of the regular season, while Vegas killed off 80.8 percent of its opponents' power plays. As is so often the case, the improvements were owed at least in part to better finishing and goaltending. 

The Sharks scored on 9.71 percent of their five-on-four shots down the stretch, compared to 14.71 percent in the first round. Marc-Andre Fleury posted a .952 four-on-five save percentage in the first round, compared to the .859 that he and backup Malcolm Subban combined for in the final 25 games. 

San Jose's power play and Vegas' penalty kill are red-hot, but those results are largely deserved based on each group's play down the stretch. Which unit has the edge just may swing the series, considering how tight the Sharks and Golden Knights played each other during the regular season. 

Three of four games were decided by a goal, and two went to overtime. The fourth was decided by two, only because of an empty-netter. 

The margins are so thin, including in the crease, that the outcome of this special teams battle could determine which team advances to the Conference Finals.