Sharks

Tigers ride Verlander to shutout win, avoid ALDS collapse

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Tigers ride Verlander to shutout win, avoid ALDS collapse

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OAKLAND When Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander held the Oakland As to just one run in seven innings in Game 1 of their ALDS series, it was easily the best postseason start of the Cy Young Award winners career.That is, until Game 5 happened.Verlander was dazzling on Thursday in Oakland, going the distance in a four-hit shutout while striking out 11 and walking just one. The Tigers eliminated the feisty Athletics, 6-0, just 24 hours after a heartbreaking loss in which they blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth.He has a pair of no-hitters under his belt, but the 29-year-old Verlander called Thursdays performance the biggest moment of his already impressive career.The two no-hitters are obviously up there, but thats something a little bit different. This is a win-or-go-home my team needs me, and I was able to go out there and have one of the better performances Ive had, a champagne-drenched Verlander said after the game. For me, this is number one, personally.While the Tigers were no doubt stunned after Game 4, they were able to take heart in the fact that their ace was available on full rest for the do-or-die game in a hostile environment. They could tell early on that Verlander had his best stuff, and quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning.Centerfielder Austin Jackson, who was 2-for-5 with two RBIs, explains.We had complete confidence in him going into this game, and when you see him working out there and you see him with that bulldog mentality, you feed off of it, Jackson said. And we fed off of it as a team.Manager Jim Leyland said: He had that look in his eyes today. He was determined. He had a complete game look in his eye. And we were thankful to get that.Verlander finished the series with an extraordinary stat line to go along with his 2-0 record. In 16 innings, he surrendered just one earned run (0.56 ERA) and struck out 22 while walking five. The As hit just .130 against him.He knew early in Game 5 that he had his best stuff.My changeup was working well for me tonight. I could tell from the first batter, from Coco Crisp, that it was going to be an effective pitch for me, he said. Its just one of those things as a pitcher, you go out there and see what youve got and whats going to work for you that night. I was hoping my changeup was going to be good with as many lefties as they have. If it was on, I knew it would make it tough on them, and thankfully it was.The Tigers were also able to put Game 4 behind them, and according to Gerald Laird, treated Game 5 as if it were just another day at the office.This game is full of highs and low, and the lows, youve got to get rid of them. Theyve got to be a quick memory, forget about it and get ready for the new day and ride out the highs, he said. Thats why this game is so wonderful, last night they made a good comeback and forced a Game 5, but we knew we had our ace. Probably one of the best, if not the best pitcher in baseball going for us, and I liked our chances.Tigers complimentary of As, Coliseum crowdPerhaps they were just still giddy from their relieving series-clinching win, but the Detroit Tigers had nothing but positive things to say about the Oakland As and their raucous Coliseum crowd.
RATTO: Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball
Jackson shot down one prevailing notion that the As are an unproven bunch that only made it to the playoffs by catching lightning in a bottle.I dont know where people get this inexperienced team or theyre just coming out of nowhere theyre a good team. Theyve got good pitching and good hitters, and it was tough on us, Jackson said. No game that we played this series was easy. We didnt expect anything different from them, theyre a good team.Certainly, they don't have anything to be ashamed of. They were a terrific opponent, Leyland said. And, I just hope that there's no lingering disrespect over the Al Alburquerque situation that happened earlier at our place. We apologized for that, we meant it sincerely, and we would never show anybody up. And I think that's past us, and we had a competitive series and we were fortunate to win it.Some Tigers also seemed a bit surprised that the As fans, which once again packed the Coliseum, were with their team until the final out despite the fact that their club was trailing 6-0 and not showing any signs of life at the plate against a dominant hurler.I think playing here was the toughest atmosphere Ive played in, Verlander said.These fans were unbelievable. They were on their feet from out one to out 27. Weve got some good fans at home, too, but they made it tough to come here and play. Thats what home field is all about.

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

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AP

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

Over the last three years, Brent Burns played with only one defensive partner more in a single season than he has with Joakim Ryan in 2017-18.

That partner, of course, is Paul Martin, who’s missed all but two games this season due to complications from offseason ankle surgery. Martin is set to miss yet more time after experiencing a setback in his recovery, although the injury is not related to his ailing ankle, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Martin’s absence, combined with the fact that Burns has gone 20 games without a goal this season, has naturally led to questions about whether their separation is causing Burns to struggle.

That’s not the case.

Burns is actually playing a bit better alongside Ryan than he was with Martin. In just over 257 minutes together at even strength, the Sharks have controlled 55.74 percent of the shot attempts with Burns and Ryan on the ice, according to Corsica Hockey, up from Burns and Martin’s 52.13 percent mark together.

The Sharks are attempting more shots than their opponents when Burns and Ryan play, they’re doing so at a higher rate. With Burns and Ryan on the ice, the Sharks are attempting nearly nine more shots per 60 minutes than when Burns and Martin together, and just over two more shots per 60 minutes are hitting the net.

As we’ve written about previously, Burns’ scoring struggles date back to the stretch run last season, when he was playing alongside Martin. It wasn’t Martin’s fault then, just as it’s not Ryan’s fault now.

The puck simply isn’t going in. Through 20 games this season, Burns has 82 shots on goal and zero goals. Through 20 games in his Norris Trophy-winning campaign, Burns had 83 shots on goal and seven goals.

It’s not like Burns was super lucky then, either, as his 8.3 percent shooting percentage through 20 games last season was only one percent higher than his career average. Shooting at a zero percent clip after 20 games is, clearly, the outlier.

Together, Burns and Ryan have been more unlucky than anything else. When the two skate during five-on-five play, the Sharks are scoring on only 3.45 percent of their shots, much lower than the 8.26 percent San Jose scored on when Martin and Burns played together.

At 32 years old, it would be a stretch to expect Burns to match or exceed his heights from a season ago, but it would be an even bigger one to expect him to struggle much longer alongside Ryan. 

They've done everything right, they just haven't scored.

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.