Montreal Canadiens

Report: Sharks interested in pair of Atlantic Division centers

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Report: Sharks interested in pair of Atlantic Division centers

Although Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Joe Thornton's right MCL injury would "probably not" change their approach at the trade deadline, they were reportedly circling the trade waters during All-Star weekend.

They may be doing something to address Thornton's absence, if a recent report is to be believed. 

The Sharks are interested in trading for Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, Nick Kypreos reported Saturday night on Sportsnet's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. 

"A lot of people are questioning whether Joe Thornton will be back in time from his MCL surgery to play meaningful games down the stretch," Kypreos said. "Plekanec is the type of guy that can at least keep [the Sharks] in the race."

Plekanec scored 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 54 games entering Saturday. With Plekanec on the ice in five-on-five situations, Montreal has attempted 50.94 percent of the shots, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

Montreal sent scouts to the Sharks' Thursday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, and to Saturday's contest against the Edmonton Oilers, the Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka noted this week. Last month, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz reported that Montreal was "regularly" sending scouts to SAP Center. 

The 35-year-old Czech native is in the second year of a two-year deal that carries a $6,000,000 salary cap hit. Elliotte Friedman, Kypreos' Hockey Night in Canada colleague, added that it's possible opts to re-sign Plekanec rather than trading him. 

Plekanec is not the only center from the Atlantic Division that the Penguins and Sharks may pursue: Friedman said he "wouldn't be surprised" if either team was interested in Ottawa Senators center Derrick Brassard.

Brassard, 30, is signed through 2019 at a $5,000,000 salary cap hit. He's scored 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 51 games this season, and the Senators have attempted 49.76 percent of the shots with him on the ice in five-on-five situations, per Natural Stat Trick. With Brassard off of the ice, they only attempted 45.32 percent of the five-on-five shots. 

Meier achieves a career first as Sharks dominate Canadiens

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Meier achieves a career first as Sharks dominate Canadiens

BOX SCORE

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens called a team meeting after a loss to the San Jose Sharks extended their losing streak to five games.

Reporters were kept waiting for more than 15 minutes outside the dressing room as Canadiens players discussed the listless play of late that has left them well out of playoff position with half the season still to play.

"We didn't have everyone on board and that's frustrating," captain Max Pacioretty said after Tuesday night's 4-1 defeat. "All things considered, coming back from a road trip and where we are in the standings and knowing how many games we dropped and how many people are struggling, that's upsetting.

"We have to find a way to compete harder and win more battles."

Timo Meier had two goals, and Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks (21-12-4), who were coming off a 6-0 setback Sunday in Dallas. San Jose has won four of five.

"We carried the puck with a lot of speed into the other end and I think we had them on their heels for most of the night," said Sharks veteran Logan Couture.

Andrew Shaw scored for Montreal (16-20-4), which has just four goals in the last five games and now has to face the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

The Canadiens were starting a five-game homestand after a dismal 2-5-0 road trip.

They had some early chances against the Sharks, but seemed to sag when Thornton opened the scoring 12:57 into the game. By the third period, fans were booing the home side.

"Not good," Pacioretty said. "We play with pride.

"The best part about playing in Montreal is the fans and the city and the passion for hockey, so when we take that out of the building through poor play and through not winning or being exciting and scoring goals and giving the fans a show, it's upsetting. Especially when it's your job to produce."

Pacioretty, a steady 30-goal scorer in recent seasons, has only eight in 40 games and has not scored since Nov. 30, but he's not the only Canadiens player struggling to find the net. Among others, Jonathan Drouin has only five goals, and none since Nov. 29.

Montreal coach Claude Julien said frustration has crept in.

"When that happens, the compete level isn't where it should be," he said. "We're just not doing our jobs out there.

"We need to refocus and get back to being committed to doing the job in all areas."

San Jose outshot Montreal 33-31.

The Canadiens wasted a string of early chances, and San Jose scored first. Justin Braun shot wide from the right point but Thornton stopped the puck and put it in from the side of the net at 12:57.

Vlasic finished a 2-on-1 with Mikkel Boedker at 11:27 of the second.

Montreal broke a drought of 132 minutes without a goal at 16:07, but it took a two-man advantage to do it. And the Canadiens didn't even shoot the puck into the net, as Pacioretty's pass to Shaw went off the center's skate and past goalie Aaron Dell.

Meier was at the edge of the crease to finish a tic-tac-toe play with Chris Tierney and Kevin Labanc on a power play at 19:50. Meier got his second of the game and eighth of the season when he picked the top corner against Carey Price on an off-wing rush down the right side 1:13 into the third.

Dell made 30 saves and has won six straight starts.

NOTES: A moment of silence, along with a scoreboard video tribute, was observed before the game for former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Johnny Bower, who died last week at the age 93. ... In a sign of how impotent Montreal's attack has been, minor league call-up Nicolas Deslauriers won the December edition of the Molson Cup, a team award based on three-star selections.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Thursday night at Toronto.

Canadiens: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

Joe Pavelski, Max Pacioretty have more in common than their captaincies

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Joe Pavelski, Max Pacioretty have more in common than their captaincies

Had the NHL decided to go to the Pyeongchang Olympics in February, Joe Pavelski and Max Pacioretty likely would have been announced as members of the United States team during Monday’s Winter Classic. The NHL won’t go, and the two weren’t named, even though they should have been near locks.  

Few players have scored more goals than the Sharks and Canadiens captains from the beginning of the 2013-14 until now. They’re first and third, respectively, among American goal-scorers, and third and eighth among all goal-scorers regardless of nationality.

This season, they’re in a tie for 20th...if you combine their goal totals, that is. Pavelski and Pacioretty have scored a combined 16 goals (eight each), nine fewer than the league leader Nikita Kucherov.

It hasn’t been a banner season for either of the Captains America, and both appear in need of the fictional Cap’s super-soldier serum. Pacioretty enters Tuesday night’s matchup between San Jose and Montreal on a 12-game goal-less skid, and he failed to find the back of the net in the month of December.

Pavelski, meanwhile, is on a considerably hotter streak than his Canadiens counterpart, at least on paper. He’s scored five points in his last five, and four goals in his last 13 games.

But when you take a closer look, it’s apparent that Pavelski’s also struggled lately.

He last scored a five-on-five goal on December 1. That was a day after Pacioretty scored his last goal.

Neither is playing much differently, let alone much worse, than they have in the past. Pavelski (13.16 five-on-five shot attempts per 60 minutes, according to Corsica Hockey) and Pacioretty (18.83) are shooting a tiny bit less this season, to the tune of just over one fewer shot attempt per hour at even strength compared to the last four seasons.

It’s even less of a difference when you look at shots, with Pavelski taking 0.07 fewer five-on-five shots every 60 minutes than he did over the last four seasons. Pacioretty, meanwhile, is taking 0.46 fewer shots.

Decimal places of difference can’t definitively describe such a drastic drop-off. Neither can age, even though both players a year older, nor injury and illness, which Pavelski and Pacioretty have respectively encountered.

The boring answer is that both players have been really unlucky, as the puck isn’t going in.

Their personal shooting percentages across all situations are among the lowest in their respective careers. If Pavelski and Pacioretty converted at a career-average clip, they’d have about 11 and 16, respectively.

That would still be concerning for Pavelski, but feels appropriate when you remember he turned 33 in July. Pacioretty, meanwhile, would be a top-20 goal-scorer.

Regression to the mean, more than anything, is what the American captains of the Sharks and Canadiens need in 2018. They won’t have the opportunity to wear the red, white, and blue in February, but just may be in Olympic-level form by then.