Sharks

Trump honors Penguins at White House: 'True champions and incredible patriots'

Trump honors Penguins at White House: 'True champions and incredible patriots'

WASHINGTON -- After adding to the uproar over NFL players who protest during the national anthem, President Donald Trump mostly stuck to hockey in honoring the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, calling them "true champions and incredible patriots."

Trump welcomed the Penguins into the Oval Office and celebrated their second consecutive championship in the East Room of the White House. He singled out the achievements of playoff MVP Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, among others.

Trump has grabbed a number of sports headlines in recent weeks, including his criticism of NFL players for kneeling during the anthem and his decision to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the White House for the type of championship visit made by the Penguins, the New England Patriots and the Chicago Cubs along with Clemson football team.

"Everybody wanted to be here today," Trump said of the Penguins. "And I know why."

Hours after tweeting that the tax code should be changed to punish NFL teams over the anthem issue, Trump joked that Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle should help him renegotiate NAFTA but largely avoided any talk about other sports.

"It's been an honor to have them all here," Trump said.

Crosby has said on multiple occasions that the team's decision to go to the White House was not politically motivated. Coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins understand the circumstances of their visit and that he didn't feel like Trump was using them as a political prop.

"We've stated clearly from the get-go that our visit to the White House is not political," Sullivan said. "Nobody's choosing a side. Nobody's taking a stand. We are simply honoring our championship and the accomplishments of this group of players over this season or the last two seasons."

Of the 18 players who won the Cup last season and are still with the Penguins, seven are American: Kessel, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Chad Ruhwedel and Conor Sheary. Crosby and six others are Canadian, two are Swedish, one is Russian and one is Finnish.

Trump congratulated the Penguins for being the first back-to-back Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998, complimented co-owner Mario Lemieux's golf game and drew boos when he referenced Pittsburgh's upcoming game against the rival Washington Capitals. He said he expected the Penguins to be back at the White House next year.

"This is really a truly great group of world champions," Trump said. "That's what they are. They're world champions."

Sullivan, the only member of the team who spoke to reporters after the visit, said "zero" politics came up with Trump behind closed doors.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, one of 18 black players in the NHL, became the first hockey player to engage in an anthem protest when he raised his fist while standing on the bench before a game Saturday night. Sullivan said he wouldn't have a problem if one of his players took a knee during the national anthem.

"We're very respectful of anyone's right to protest or demonstrate as they see fit," said Sullivan, who is American. "We're very respectful of it."

The Penguins had one black player on their championship team, Trevor Daley, but he signed with Detroit in the offseason and did not travel to Washington because the Red Wings were playing in Dallas. They currently have one black player, Ryan Reaves, but he and others acquired over the summer who didn't win the Cup also did not go to the White House.

Trump has called on NFL owners to fire players who don't stand for the anthem and urged fans to boycott games in a series of tweets. He tweeted that he instructed Vice President Mike Pence to leave a game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts on Sunday if there were any anthem protests, which Pence did.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told The Associated Press recently that said he respects players' views on political and social issues and "people are going to have to decide what makes them comfortable." Bettman said social issues "are a matter of individual belief and individual choice."

Sullivan also said the team presented Trump with an undisclosed gift.

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.