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.

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

SAN JOSE -- There was a plethora of storylines coming out of the Sharks’ crazy 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Almost all of them were eclipsed by Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal.

With the score tied up 4-4 in the waning minutes of regulation, the towering forward receiving a magnificent cross-ice pass from linemate Marcus Sorensen before sending the puck past Nashville goalie Juuse Saros into the back of the net

The energy at the Tank after the goal was electric. As his teammates swarmed him in celebration, Thornton was full of emotion as his 400th marker put the Sharks on top 5-4.

“I was on the ice, it was awesome,” Joe Pavelski said with a smile after the game. “It’s hard to put in perspective at times just what he’s been able to accomplish.”

The only thing making the goal even more impressive was that it put him on an exclusive list of seven players in NHL history who have scored 400 goals, tallied 1,000 assists, and played in over 1,500 games. Not surprisingly, though, Thornton told the media he was more focused on helping the team win than notching the milestone goal.

“Just trying to improve my game right now,” he said, a reminder to everyone he’s still battling back from those knee issues that sidelined him at the start of the season.

Wait, so he doesn’t know what highly-touted company he’s joined after scoring his 400th goal?

“No idea,” he admitted. “I haven’t checked to be honest with you.”

His teammates have been paying closer attention.

“It’s like every other night, there’s some kind of stat getting thrown out there,” Pavelski said of following his teammates' accomplishments. “They’re fun to look at, they really are.”

Defenseman Erik Karlsson has only been Thornton’s teammate for a little over a month. But since he has experience playing against No.19, he offered some perspective on what it was like for the Predators’ defense when Thornton came barreling down the ice.

“He’s one of those guys that you always have to be aware of,” Karlsson explained. “You always have to be aware of where he is because he’s such a good hockey player and if he gets the opportunities, you know he’s going to make you pay.”

Of course, the goal couldn’t have been made possible without the beautiful set-up from Sorensen, who Thornton has had a lot of success playing with as of late. 

“Marcus made a great play,” Thornton complimented. “I love playing with him. It seems like we’ve got some chemistry together now.”

When asked what it was like contributing to the milestone goal, Sorensen kept his answer straight-forward.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I’m happy for him.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in wild 5-4 win over Predators

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -– There was no denying that Tuesday night’s rematch between the Sharks and the Nashville Predators would be a good game. But it’s likely that nobody expected just how lopsided this eventual nail-biter could get.

The Sharks jumped out to a convincing three-goal lead in the first period while the Predators looked tired and unable to create any offense. Then, the visitors rallied in the second stanza to notch three unanswered goals of their own, tying the score heading into the second intermission.

It looked as though Nashville would skate away to a one-goal victory halfway through the third, but Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton put two big goals on the board to give the home team the 5-4 victory.

To top everything off, the game-winner was Thornton’s 400th career goal.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s topsy-turvy game.

The Sharks' first period was amazing

The Sharks opened the game with the most dominant period of hockey they’ve played all season. It embodied everything the team has been saying it wants: Great puck possession, a strong defensive presence and contributions from all four lines.

The strong start was important, given the Predators were playing on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road and had just lost to the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout the previous night. Nashville was visibly tired in the first frame, and San Jose took advantage.

That being said …

The second period was the opposite of amazing

It was like a completely different Sharks team took the ice in the second period. They played a looser game and gave the Predators an opportunity to get back into the contest – not something a team wants to do against a squad with an 8-0-1 road record.

San Jose’s biggest problem in those 20 minutes was not being able to capitalize on any power-play opportunities. The Sharks even had a five-on-three opportunity after the Predators were called for having too many men on the ice. But through 3:40 on the man advantage, San Jose didn’t register a single shot on goal.

The third-period push is alive and well

If there’s one thing the Sharks are good at, it’s making that big third-period push when they’re on their heels. Sometimes it’s too little too late. It came at just the right time Tuesday. 

Goaltender Martin Jones made his best saves at the end of the game. He was particularly impressive when Nashville pulled its goalie with less than two minutes left in the game, and the Predators' forwards swarmed into San Jose’s zone.

Of course, the highlight of the game came on the final goal, when Thornton seemed to skate up to Nashville’s net in slow motion after getting a spectacular feed from Marcus Sorensen. Predators netminder Juuse Saros appeared to not even see Thornton’s milestone marker float past him stick side.