Sharks

NHL All-Star Game: Logan Couture can help Sharks set franchise record

NHL All-Star Game: Logan Couture can help Sharks set franchise record

Depending on the final voting results for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, the Sharks can do something they've never done before.

If center Logan Couture is voted in by fans as the Pacific Division's "Last Man In," San Jose will have four representatives at its first hometown All-Star Game since 1997. That would be the most in franchise history, and would ensure the Sharks have more All-Stars than any other team at this year's midseason exhibition -- barring any last-minute injury replacements and/or players skipping out on the game entirely. 

Well, other than Alex Ovechkin.

Forward Joe Pavelski and defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson's entry into the game means the Sharks have matched their previous high, which is a total they've reached four times (2002, 2007, 2009, 2017) before. If Couture's going to join them, he'll do so in a bit of anomalous season. 

Couture's 41 points are the most of his career after 42 games, but so are his 26 assists. That's one off of his total from each of the last two seasons, and only 14 away from his career best. Yet Couture is known more as goal-scorer, having scored 20 goals in all but one season since 2010-11. 

This year, he's racking up points as a set-up man. He is picking up primary assists at a higher rate 5-on-5 (0.95 per hour, according to Natural Stat Trick) than any other season in his career, and all but one on the power play (2.1 per hour).  The 30-year-old is picking up 5-on-5 secondary assists at a career-high rate (0.62 per hour), too, but not on the power play (1.57 per hour, fifth-highest).

The former number is buoyed by what would be a career-high on-ice shooting percentage at 5-on-5 (11.8 percent), which is certain to regress. But, it's not entirely unearned. With Couture on the ice, the Sharks are generating scoring chances at a higher rate (30.58 per hour) than all but two of his previous seasons, and more high-danger chances (12.49 per hour) than all but one. 

All told, that's helped Couture mitigate declining shot rates -- he has shot at a lower rate 5-on-5 than the previous season in each of the last four years -- and continue to produce. Converting on over 18 percent of his shots on the power play and 5-on-5 undoubtedly has, too, but Couture's continued production as a passer will be important for the Sharks moving forward. He turns 30 in March, and enters the first season of an eight-year extension in 2019-20. 

[RELATED: Brent Burns, Sharks rally to beat Avs despite injuries on defense]

In the immediate future, Couture will face stiff competition to nab the Pacific's final spot. Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl ended Thursday tied for ninth in points (51), while Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was tied for third in points among blue-liners (39). Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser was an All-Star last season, as was Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar. Still, Couture has more points than any of his competitors -- save for Draisaitl -- and San Jose hosting the All-Star Game could give him a boost at the ballot box by the time voting concludes on Jan. 10 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 

Aaron Dell leads Sharks to 'gutsy' win against rival Golden Knights

dellsidebarap.jpg
AP

Aaron Dell leads Sharks to 'gutsy' win against rival Golden Knights

The word "gutsy" was used a few times by the Sharks after Thursday's win in Vegas, and it's easy to understand why.

The odds certainly were not in San Jose's favor heading into the third battle of the season with the Golden Knights. The Sharks were without one of their best forwards in Tomas Hertl and heading into a tough building to play a team that had dominated them twice back in October. But instead of letting the rival Vegas squad get into their heads, the Sharks put a mean product out on the ice and played one of their most complete games on the season, winning 2-1 in overtime.

So, yes, gutsy is a good way to categorize the victory.

"Huge win for the boys," Timo Meier told reporters after the game. "We knew it was a good challenge coming into this game and some guys stepped up. We had everybody chipping in, we had all guys on board. And that's what we need."

Aaron Dell agreed. "I think it was just a great character win," the netminder said. "I think it showed it doesn't matter who's in or who's out, that we can get the job done."

San Jose was short-handed heading into the game with Hertl out of the lineup with an injury he sustained in Tuesday's loss to the Oilers. Then the Sharks lost more bodies as the game went on, with Radim Simek and Melker Karlsson missing time towards the end of the contest. 

Still, San Jose found a way to buckle down and come out on top.

"We were short by the end there," captain Logan Couture told Sharks' play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn after the game. "We only dressed 11 up front, and then Melker went down and Simek went down on the back end. Just a really gutsy performance from us."

Even with bodies missing, the rest of San Jose's arsenal was able to pick up the slack, from Meier's big hits to Couture's persistence on the game-winner in overtime. Perhaps the biggest standout of the night, though, was Dell. The backup goalie rebounded magnificently from his previous bad starts, locking down the crease and limiting Vegas to one goal on the evening.

Not bad for a guy who hadn't started a game in nearly three weeks.

"Dell was huge all night," Couture complimented. "He played unbelievable. He hadn't played in 10 or 11 days and for him to come in, in this environment, against a team that shoots a lot, he stood on his head for us and gave us a chance to win it."

Dell attributed his success to getting lots of practice time in between his starts, but ultimately turned the focus to how the team in front of him was playing.

"We played solid defensively the whole game and waited for our chances," he said. "We stuck to our game plan and we really didn't give them a whole lot."

Now, the Sharks are going to have to keep that push going. Head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after the game that both Karlsson and Simek were banged up, leaving questions as to what San Jose's lineup might look like Saturday against the red-hot New York Islanders. 

Regardless of whether or not Karlsson and Simek are able to play, the Sharks might want to have another gutsy effort on deck.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 overtime win vs. Golden Knights

sharkstakeawaysusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 overtime win vs. Golden Knights

BOX SCORE

To say the first two games this season between the Sharks and Golden Knights were heavily tilted in Vegas’ favor is a major understatement. But San Jose didn’t sit back the third time around Thursday Night at T-Mobile Arena.

The Sharks put on a playoff-type performance in the desert, which ended with a big overtime goal from captain Logan Couture to give San Jose a 2-1 victory.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Sin City.

It starts with a good ... start 

Sharks fans likely were pleased that San Jose didn't give up the first goal in the first five minutes of the game -- something that has happened all too often against Vegas. But the Sharks didn't just keep the game scoreless through five minutes -- they kept Vegas off the board through two and a half periods.

It all stemmed from San Jose starting off the game the right way. Granted, the Sharks took their foot off of the gas late in the third period which allowed Vegas to tie it up, but if they can harness the same physicality and play like that against other teams, more victories will come. 

Dell saves the day ... and his job?

It's fair to say that Dell's job was on the line heading into Thursday's game. He hadn't started in almost three weeks after a couple of very bad outings. But boy, did he come to play against the Golden Knights in a difficult atmosphere. Vegas constantly peppered Dell and outshot the Sharks in the contest, but San Jose's netminder made a couple of huge saves to halt the attack, especially on the penalty kill.

After Thursday's performance, Dell surely has earned himself another start in the near future. Since the Sharks have a back-to-back coming up next week, he will likely get back in there pretty quickly, perhaps next Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

Welcome back, Timo 

Timo Meier has sat atop the list of Sharks' players needing to bust out of a slump, but he broke through Thursday and easily was one of the most noticeable players on the ice. His second-period goal was an absolute thing of beauty as he made a huge power move to drag the puck to the net and slid it under Marc-Andre Fleury.

The biggest change in Meier's game was that he was playing a much heavier, more physical style than he previously had been. And, as we saw with Meier last season, he has the most success when he imposes his size and physicality on the opponent. If he can keep up that trend, his season could really turn around.