After two wins vs Ducks, biggest threat to Sharks is their own complacency

After two wins vs Ducks, biggest threat to Sharks is their own complacency

The San Jose Sharks have been a notoriously cruel tease, and that has been true even before they gakked up that 3-0 lead to Los Angeles in 2014.

But the Stanley Cup Playoffs have always been a stay-in-the-moment kind of thing, a yesterday’s-result-is-unconnected-to-tomorrow’s phenomenon going back decades.

In other words, their 2-0 lead on the Anaheim Ducks heading back to San Jose for Games 3 and 4 of their first-round series isn’t yet a thing, because the NHL is, well, the NHL.

That said, being up 2-0 in the first round and going back home has an 82 percent chance of said team winning the series, so it is still much preferable to the rise-from-the-slab bogey men that occasionally crop up in these scenarios.

Besides, San Jose has been better in both games because San Jose has been truer to its core values than Anaheim. More blocked shots, better discipline, and an urgency to protect goaltender Martin Jones so that the discrepancies between him and Anaheim’s John Gibson are minimized – they have all added up to put the Sharks in a firmly dominant position, one which frankly most observers hadn’t expected.

So far, home teams are 12-4 through the first two sets of games, and the Sharks have two of those four. They have been faster and more skilled, and even playing at a faster pace than the Ducks are used to allowing. As a result, Evander Kane made his mark in Game 1 and the rest of the team had better luck finding the seams in the Anaheim defense in Game 2. Defensively, they have properly neutralized Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell and left Corey Perry to headhunt, as he did with Melker Karlsson late in Game 2. Plus, they have blocked nearly 30 percent of Anaheim’s shot attempts and given Jones clear looks at most of what has leaked through.

All this means is that once again we have fallen victim to recency bias. The Ducks played better down the stretch than the Sharks, even stealing a home ice advantage the Sharks should have had nailed down with a week to go. Gibson has been left to do too much and as a result has not been able to do enough, and the Sharks have been winning all the time and space battles in front of him.

Instead, the Sharks are in an even better situation now than if they had gone up 2-0 and then had to head to Anaheim, and can, if they wish to tempt fate, start prepping for the Vegas Wonder Children – which would be tempting fate twice.

You see, the NHL has a funny way of treating those who have tabulated the hen prematurely, and the biggest threat to San Jose is its own complacency, which has historically been more of a problem than seems reasonable. But having established that they are better than Anaheim in its current state, the Sharks ought to be able to finish the work – maybe in six games, because four would be, again, tempting a fate that has never been terribly kind to San Jose.

So there’s that. The Sharks have been among the postseason’s most impressive teams so far (behind Boston, to be sure, and Winnipeg and Nashville as well), but finishing is what their history says is their failing, so they have to kick history in the ass a bit.

They seem in just the mood to do it.

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal


Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double


Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.