Marcus White

Scoring binge masks deeper issues for Sharks' third line

third-line-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Scoring binge masks deeper issues for Sharks' third line

Once again, Sharks’ third line seemed to click during Tuesday night’s win against the St. Louis Blues.

Mikkel Boedker scored his sixth and seventh points in four games. He now has two more goals than he did all of last season, his first in San Jose, and is only two points shy of matching his total from last year.

Chris Tierney continued his career year, and picked up his fourth point in three games. His 16th assist of the season marks a new personal-best, with 22 games to go. 

Jannik Hansen, meanwhile, continued to show signs of life. After managing only five assists in his first 31 games of the season, he now has three assists in his last three games. 

In all, the new-look third line has outscored opponents five-to-one during the last four games, in a little over 40 five-on-five minutes together. That level of production should encourage the Sharks, especially in the absence of Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton. 

The problem is that it isn’t exactly sustainable. 

For one, they’ve benefited from plenty of puck luck. Over the last four games with Boedker, Hansen, and Tierney on the ice in five-on-five situations together, the Sharks have scored on a sky-high 26.32 percent of their shots, and the team’s opponents have only scored on 3.12 percent of theirs, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

The trio hasn’t played well enough to earn that disparity. In the last four games, they’ve been out-attempted 52-37, outshot 32-19, and out-chanced 33-25 in five-on-five situations. 

For the analytically inclined, their five-on-five corsi-for percentage in those games is 35.96 percent, shots-for percentage is 37.25, and scoring chance-for percentage is 43.1. With them off of the ice, the Sharks’ numbers in those respective metrics are 49.81 percent, 51.29, and 56.69 percent. 

Tuesday was a near-perfect representation of the discrepancy between their play and their production. The Sharks only attempted 27.27 percent of the five-on-five shots and generated 35.71 percent of the scoring chances with them on the ice, but still managed to score a goal and hold the Blues scoreless in the process. 

In all, Boedker, Hansen, and Tierney have been on the ice for half of the team’s goals over the last four games, despite not playing all that well together. The Sharks will surely take those results no matter how ugly the process, especially as Thornton and Hertl remain on the mend. 

The longer they’re out, though, the less likely it is that the new third line will be able to maintain this level of scoring. San Jose will have to hope the puck luck doesn’t begin to go the other way if the trio can’t start tilting the ice in their favor. 

Fehr or Foul: Sharks acquire a fourth-line center, but is he the solution?

eric-fehr-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Fehr or Foul: Sharks acquire a fourth-line center, but is he the solution?

UPDATE (3:57 PM PST): Fehr will join the Sharks in Nashville on Wednesday, according to the Bay Area News Group's Paul Gackle. This article has been updated to reflect that. 

Trade season has arrived in San Jose, after the Sharks acquired a veteran center on Tuesday. 

Six days before the NHL trade deadline, the Sharks traded a 2020 seventh round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Eric Fehr. 

The 32-year-old center has spent the bulk of his season on loan to the AHL's San Diego Gulls, after he went unclaimed on waivers in October. In 34 games with the Gulls, who play in the same division as the Sharks' AHL affiliate, Fehr scored 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists). 

The Bay Area News Group reported last month that the Sharks were in the market for a fourth-line center, and Ryan Carpenter, Barclay Goodrow, and Danny O'Regan all got looks at the position. Carpenter was waived after scoring an assist in 16 games, but has scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in 13 games since the Vegas Golden Knights claimed him in December.

Goodrow had not played the position professionally prior to this season, but acquitted himself reasonably well, all things considered: He's posted the best five-on-five possession numbers of his career (51.1 percent corsi-for percentage), and scored a career-high five goals in 30 games. O'Regan, the Barracuda's leading scorer last season, hasn't been able to seize a regular role and has seemed overmatched at times. 

Fehr, meanwhile, is a more proven option, with some utility to boot. He's not played less than a minute-and-a-half on the penalty kill since 2013-14, according to Natural Stat Trick, and suppresses opposing shots pretty well for a fourth line center, per Own The Puck

It's also fair to question whether or not his best hockey is behind him. As mentioned previously, he's 32 and spent the majority of his season in the AHL, plus he hasn't been a positive five-on-five possesion player relative to his teammates since 2013-14.

The Sharks didn't give up much, as their last pick in a draft two years away is close to nothing. But, they had an opportunity to acquire the forward at no cost when he was first placed on waivers in October, and he went unclaimed. 

Fehr will join his new teammates Wednesday in Nashville. He's spent all but one of his 13 NHL seasons in the Eastern Conference, but does have some familiarity with San Jose. 

He scored against the Sharks in game four of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, and played alongside Joel Ward in Washington from 2013-15. 

Mrazek trade, Blues backup's success make case for Sharks to keep Dell

dell-aaron-teal-puck.jpg
AP

Mrazek trade, Blues backup's success make case for Sharks to keep Dell

Monday’s Detroit Red Wings-Philadelphia Flyers trade made it abundantly clear the Sharks are better off hanging on to backup goaltender (and pending unrestricted free agent) Aaron Dell ahead of next week’s trade deadline.

In exchange for goaltender Petr Mrazek and Detroit retaining half of his salary, the Flyers sent the Red Wings a conditional fourth round pick in 2018, which can become as high as a second round pick depending on two increasingly convoluted conditions, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The winged wheel can also get a third round pick in 2019 if Mrazek re-signs on Broad Street, but the pending restricted free agent requires a $4.1 million qualifying offer, according to Cap Friendly. The Flyers only acquired Mrazek because their top two goalies are injured in the middle of a playoff hunt, so you’re more likely to see civil obedience at the next Philadelphia championship parade than Mrazek playing in the city’s net next season.

Dell’s been floated as a potential trade piece at times, considering his cheap, expiring contract and his success when called upon. But he’s got 109 fewer starts to his name than Mrazek, and there wasn’t much of a market for him to begin with.

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland intimated as much Tuesday morning, telling reporters there wasn’t much of a market for goaltenders. The biggest buyer is now off of the market, and barring a move from one of Philadelphia’s goaltending-needy rivals in the Metropolitan Division (namely, the Devils, Hurricanes, and Islanders), there are far more goalies available than there are interested teams.

Trading Dell would not only mean receiving limited value in return, but having no meaningful insurance for starter Martin Jones down the stretch. Jones has been much better lately, and played like he has in each of the last two postseasons.

Before those postseasons, though, Jones was able to get a good amount of rest. Backups James Reimer and Dell starting eight and seven games, respectively, in San Jose’s last 20 games following the deadline over the last two seasons. The Sharks would not be able to do that if Troy Grosenick or Antoine Bibeau took Dell’s place.

The case for keeping Dell is arguably best made by the St. Louis Blues, San Jose’s opponent on Tuesday. Carter Hutton, a former Sharks prospect who will start in net against his old organization, leads the league in five-on-five save percentage (.949) among goalies that have played 1000 even strength minutes, according to Corsica Hockey, as well as qualifying goaltenders in total save percentage (.940)

Hutton’s largely outplayed starter Jake Allen, who’s faltered at times. He’s provided St. Louis enough depth in net to hold on to one of the West’s Wild Card spots, and in the gauntlet that is the Central Division, it’s easy to imagine the Blues out of the postseason entirely with even league-average backup goaltending.

Dell (.917 five-on-five save percentage) hasn’t been nearly as good as Hutton this season, but it’s unlikely the Sharks could receive similar production from any of their goaltenders in the system. If they’re not going to get much better behind Jones, and they’re not also going to get all that much in return for Dell, the choice to keep him is rather easy.