Mikkel Boedker

Mikkel Boedker finally living up to his potential

Mikkel Boedker finally living up to his potential

With his game-winning, power play goal in the Sharks' 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, Mikkel Boedker surpassed his point total from his inauspicious first season in San Jose. 

In 22 fewer games than last year, his first with the team after signing a four-year contract as a free agent, Boedker's already scored three more goals (13) and one more point (27). He's been especially productive since the turn of the calendar.  

We wrote in January that Boedker was potentially poised for a turnaround, as he appeared to have finally gotten over an early-season injury. In 30 games in 2018, Boedker's scored as many goals (10) as he did all of last season. 

That's not the highest bar to clear, but he's been very good in 2018 regardless. Since Jan. 1, he's scored five-on-five goals at a higher rate (1.32 goals/60 minutes) than dark horse Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall (1.31), picked up primary assists in five-on-five situations at a higher rate (0.99 primary assists/60) than Anze Kopitar (0.98), and scored five-on-five points (2.64 points/60) at a higher rate than Sidney Crosby (2.44), among other players and according to Natural Stat Trick.

That's not bad company to keep, but what's driven that level of production? Let's take a look.

Boedker's shooting more

In 30 games in 2018, Boedker's shot 64 times across all situations. In the first 29 games this season, he shot 35 times. 

Boedker's attempting about six more shots per hour over the last 30 (15.04 shot attempts/60) than the first 29, and is also generating over three more shots on goal per hour (9.42 shots/60). Those rates over the last 30 games are higher than last season, when Boedker set the best and second-best rates of his career in five-on-five shots and shot attempts, respectively. 

He's also gotten better luck...

As he saw last season, shot generation can only go so far if good fortune doesn't come along with it. Last year, Mikkel Boedker's 8.2 percent shooting percentage was the lowest of his career. He wasn't much better in that area over the first 29 games of the season, scoring on only 8.6 percent of shots. 

Since Jan. 1, Boedker's scored on 15.6 percent of his shots. That's well above his career average (11.1 percent), but if Boedker had converted on 15.6 percent of his shots last season, he would have scored approximately 19 goals, or nine more than he ended up scoring. 

...and so have his teammates

If you thought Boedker's individual luck was bad last season, the luck of those arround him was even worse in the first 29 games of this season. Over that span, the Sharks scored on only 3.31 percent of their five-on-five shots with Boedker on the ice. 

Since Jan. 1, they've scored on 10.5 percent of their five-on-five shots, and Boedker's generated about an additional assist per hour (1.32 assists/60) compared to the season's first 29 games (0.4 assists/60). Had the Sharks converted on the same percentage of shots over the first 29 games while Boedker was on the ice, they would have scored approximately 16 goals, 11 more than Boedker was on the ice for over that stretch.

What does it all mean?

It's a tad reductionist to play 'what if' with shooting percentages, but it does highlight the role that luck played in Boedker's lack of success last season and the early part of this season. The individual productivity's been there, even if the results haven't followed. 

Now, Boedker's getting results that match, if not exceed his own level of production. Both his and the Sharks' shooting percentages should regress back to the mean, but he's doing enough individually to mitigate a drop in those percentages, remain productive moving forward, and start shedding any lingering labels of being a free agent bust. 

Boedker breaks the tie, Sharks beat Blues on home ice

Boedker breaks the tie, Sharks beat Blues on home ice

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Mikkel Boedker knew the Sharks' power play has been fizzling lately. He wasn't about to miss another opportunity.

Boedker scored San Jose's first power-play goal in a month, helping lift the Sharks past the St. Louis Blues 2-0 on Thursday night.

Tomas Hertl added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds, and Martin Jones made 16 saves for the Sharks, who have won three of four. San Jose has also won five of six at home.

"It definitely felt good to get that in the back of the net," Boedker said. "We knew about the opportunities that we'd missed. I think we were 0 for 28, we knew that. We know what's going on. It's just a matter of sticking with it. We have All-Star players in this group that are going to dig us out of the hole."

Jake Allen recorded 34 saves and was the only healthy goalie with NHL experience available to the Blues. Carter Huttonwas a late scratch and Ville Husso, who the Blues recalled from the AHL, will join the team in Los Angeles.

"Jake was awesome," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "It was a tough situation and he responded well. It was the most complete game he's played in a while."

The Blues, losers of eight of their past nine, have had trouble getting the puck into the net lately, with 15 goals over their past nine games, including back-to-back shutouts. Carl Gunnarsson, Dmitri Jaskin, Vince DunnTage Thompson and Vladimir Sobotka all have goalless streaks of at least 10 games.

"The work ethic is there and the defensive focus was there," Yeo said. "It was way too many turnovers. You can't create when you're defending and chasing all night."

By contrast, the Sharks had scored 30 goals over their past nine games, though all had been at even strength. The Sharks had not scored on the power play since Feb. 8, a span of 12 games.

"The boys played really well tonight. It's the way we need to play moving forward," Jones said. "It's a good thing if I'm not getting too many shots."

Boedker ended a streak of 39 consecutive even-strength goals with 7:48 left to play. He took a pass in front of the net from Joonas Donskoi and fired at Allen, who blocked the shot but the puck skipped off his pads and knuckled off the right post and into the net.

"We know how important points are, and the guys were ready to play," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "It wasn't an easy game. The Blues battled hard, their goalie made some big saves. What I liked was our resiliency. We stuck with it, stuck with it, didn't try and force it, knew that if we stayed with it long enough it would come and eventually we got rewarded."

The goal was set up when Kyle Brodziak was whistled for holding the stick, just the second Blues penalty of the game.

"It's hard to say what angle he had. The stick just came up in my arm," Brodziak said. "It was bad timing. I have to watch it carefully but at the time it didn't feel like a penalty that would decide the game."

NOTES:
Blues C Brayden Schenn appeared in his 500th NHL game. ... Sharks F Timo Meier played in his 100th NHL game. ... Hutton sustained a neck injury and St. Louis signed Palo Alto native Ben Wexler as an emergency backup for Thursday's game. Wexler played hockey at Illinois.

UP NEXT:
Blues: at Los Angeles on Saturday.

Sharks: vs. Washington on Saturday.

Is Mikkel Boedker about to turn his season around?

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AP

Is Mikkel Boedker about to turn his season around?

Mikkel Boedker’s assist in Tuesday night’s win over the Montreal Canadiens was an example of why the San Jose Sharks signed him last summer.

He used his speed in transition against a reeling Habs defense to create a quality look off of an odd-man rush, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic was able to bury the ensuing rebound. The problem is that those moments are becoming increasingly rare.

Boedker’s only shot on goal and only shot attempt on Tuesday night came in the aforementioned Vlasic goal. That’s become all too common for the Danish forward this season.

He’s attempting shot attempts during five-on-five play at the second-lowest rate of his career, according to Corsica Hockey, and is generating about one-and-a-half fewer shots every 60 minutes at even strength. Combine that with a career-low five-on-five shooting percentage (3.23 percent), and Boedker’s on pace for one of the worst offensive seasons of his career.

As disappointing as Boedker was last season, he only scored two fewer goals at even strength than he did the season before hit free agency, and one fewer point playing five aside. His five-on-five shot attempt rate was the highest of his career, and his shot rate was the second-highest.

Of course, he was also healthy. Boedker played in all but one game last season, but has missed seven already this season with a lower body injury.

It appears that he’s just starting to get over what ailed him. After going shotless, pointless, and playing fewer than nine minutes a night in his first two games back from injury, Boedker generated seven total shots, two assists, and played more than 10 minutes in his last four.  

Only once before this season has Boedker shot at least once in four (or more) consecutive games, and that was about a month before he went on injured reserve. The Sharks are tremendously tight-lipped when it comes to disclosing injuries, so it’s fair to wonder how long he was playing hurt.

So even as Boedker hasn’t bounced back in the way he or San Jose wanted, his recent play is fairly encouraging, as the Sharks desperately need him. He may not be used in a top-nine role, but with Barclay Goodrow injured, Jannik Hansen struggling, and Danny O’Regan not quite ready for a roster spot, the Sharks don’t have any viable alternatives for Boedker’s spot in the lineup.

With two years and a $4 million cap hit remaining on his deal, Boedker won’t net much on the trade market, either. So, the Sharks have little choice but to rely on him to contribute.

If plays like his assist against Montreal become more frequent, San Jose won't mind having to do so.