Sharks

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

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USATSI

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.

2019 NHL All-Star Game: Which snubs most deserved trip to San Jose

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AP/USATSI

2019 NHL All-Star Game: Which snubs most deserved trip to San Jose

There will be some notable absences at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose. 

Days after scoring a hat trick against the Sharks, Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin will skip the game to rest. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who recently returned from an injury, is also sitting out.

Both players will be suspended one game for not attending.

And then there are the players who didn’t make it at all.

Yes, we know there will always be snubs. Each of the league’s four divisions have 11 representatives (nine skaters, two goalies), and all 31 teams are required to have at least one All-Star -- at least on the initial roster. That leaves 13 spots for how many deserving candidates? 

But even with that disclaimer in mind, some absences are particularly head-scratching. Considering on-ice performance and in keeping with the spirit of the event, here are a few players we think should've been in San Jose this weekend. 

VIEW THE BIGGEST ALL-STAR SNUBS HERE

Sharks' crazy comeback over Capitals is a testament to their character

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USATSI

Sharks' crazy comeback over Capitals is a testament to their character

Suffice to say, just about anyone watching the end of the Sharks-Capitals contest Tuesday night probably assumed the game was over in the last few seconds. Heck, even members of the Sharks thought they were about to lose to the defending Stanley Cup champs before Evander Kane scored the tying goal with one second left in regulation.

“I thought the game was over,” Logan Couture admitted. “I came to the bench and I changed, and I was frustrated. Broke my stick over the bench. And then I look up and Kane’s putting the puck in the net.”

You really do have to hand it to the Sharks. They went into Tuesday’s game on the back end of yet another back-to-back with travel involved. They were coming off their third straight loss --- not to mention their third consecutive game where they’d given up six goals. Plus, they have a banged up starting lineup going up against a desperate Capitals team looking to snap a five-game losing streak of their own. 

Oh, and Alex Ovechkin registered a hat trick. Don’t forget about that part.

But the Sharks hung around. Although San Jose was down two goals partway through the third frame, they kept pushing so Kane could find the back of the net at 19:59 to send it to overtime -- where the Sharks would eventually seal the win.

“The guys knew we were in a tough one tonight,” Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer told the media after the 7-6 overtime victory. “With the scheduling of it and the way the road trip has gone and some of the injuries we’ve got. We could’ve used it as an excuse and mailed it in at a bunch of different points tonight and we didn’t.

“I think that’s a testament to our character.”

That character helped to catapult the Sharks offense in the third frame after Ovechkin tallied his third goal to give Washington a 6-4 advantage at 5:52 in the period. San Jose kept grinding, with Tomas Hertl capitalizing on the power play halfway through frame and Kane beating Braden Holtby at the final buzzer. The push culminated in overtime when Martin Jones stood his ground in three-on-three play so Couture, Hertl, and Timo Meier could carry the puck the other way. Hertl scored the game-winner, notching his third career hat trick -- which also made him the first player in team history to register a hat trick that included a game-winning goal in overtime.

To top it off, the Sharks didn’t just hand the Capitals their sixth straight loss. It was also the first time Washington lost a game in which Ovechkin scored a hat trick

Kane gave a nod to the team’s resilience while being down. “We never stopped thinking we could get back,” he said. “As long as we kept getting that next goal and [Washington] didn’t make it a three-goal lead. Big win going into the break.”

Speaking of that break, the majority of the Sharks get a 10-day breather with their bye week occurring immediately after All-Star weekend. This team has had a crazy schedule and is facing adversity with the injuries. Getting that win over Washington no doubt allows the team to start that break in a positive frame of mind.

“It’s been a grind,” DeBoer acknowledged. “It’s nice to go into the break with a big emotional win like that. Makes the time a little more enjoyable.”