Sharks

The Rookie and the Wookiee: Ryan bringing out the best defensively in Burns

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The Rookie and the Wookiee: Ryan bringing out the best defensively in Burns

Rookie defensemen Joakim Ryan took a page out of defensive partner Brent Burns’ playbook in Saturday night’s 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

He scored not once, but twice, and became the first Sharks blueliner other than Burns to score two goals in a game since Justin Braun on Mar. 28, 2016. His second goal, the eventual game-winner, was downright Burnsian.

The 24-year-old joined the rush, fired a hard wrist shot at Oilers goaltender Al Montoya, and had the wherewithal to not only follow up his own rebound, but bury it. If he was six inches taller, 50 pounds heavier, right-handed, and (even more) bearded, Ryan would have been a dead ringer for the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

If Burns has rubbed off on Ryan offensively, the rookie’s done the same to his partner defensively. That may sound strange, considering the Sharks have been outscored 53-30 with Burns on the ice in five-on-five situations, but he’s been far better alongside ryan than away from him.

In just over 478 five-on-five minutes without Ryan, Burns has been on the ice for 12 goals-for and 34 goals-against, according to Natural Stat Trick. In about 525-and-a-half minutes together, Ryan and Burns have been outscored by a single goal: 18-19.

When Burns plays with Ryan, the Sharks attempt a greater share of five-on-five shots (54.84 corsi-for percentage), generate more scoring chances (53.50 percent), and more high-danger chances (50.25 percent) than their opponents. While the Wookiee plays without the rookie, San Jose allows two more goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (4.27) than when they’re together (2.17).

Burns sans Ryan also gives up a higher rate of shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and high-danger chances. He’s by no means perfect alongside the New Jersey-born Swede, as Burns remains susceptible to the same head-scratching gaffes that have plagued his game all season. But, the chaos is far more controlled with Ryan.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer seemed to realize this coming out of the team’s bye week about a month ago, reuniting the duo in the middle of a Jan. 13 win over the Arizona Coyotes. They were reunited for good in the next game, and Burns has only played 37:10 in five-on-five situations away from Ryan over the last 14 games.

Together, they’ve outscored opponents at five-on-five 12-9 during said stretch. The Sharks will need to continue to utilize their chemistry Sunday evening against the Anaheim Ducks, as well as beyond.

Including Saturday, San Jose in the midst of a four-game stretch against teams on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. The Ducks are the only team over that span within two points of a playoff spot as of this writing.

It’s a real opportunity for the Sharks to establish some solid footing in the race for a postseason spot. Minimizing Burns’ defensive mistakes is necessary for a successful run.

As long as he continues to play with Ryan, though, there’s far less reasons to worry.

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

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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

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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.