Sharks' biggest win of young season powered by strong special teams

Sharks' biggest win of young season powered by strong special teams

Sharks winger Timo Meier’s power-play goal Tuesday against the Nashville Predators came at just the right time. 

Up to that point, San Jose was on its heels at even strength. Nashville held a 5-2 edge in five-on-five shot attempts, and a 10-2 edge in all situations after an unsuccessful power play of its own before Sharks captain Joe Pavelski drew a holding penalty on Predators center Ryan Johansen.

Despite that, Meier buried a rebound on top of the crease and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead on the ensuing power play. The lead lasted just 108 seconds, but San Jose and Nashville headed into the first intermission tied at 1 -- even though the Predators held a pretty clear edge in shot quantity and quality at even strength.

That’s because the Sharks’ special teams kept them in the game early, and eventually finished off the 5-4, come-from-behind win. Defenseman Brenden Dillon’s coast-to-coast, short-handed goal cut the Predators’ lead to one, and fellow blue-liner Brent Burns took back the lead for good on an Erik Karlsson-assisted one-timer.

The Sharks’ power play arguably was the best it had been through nine games this season. According to Natural Stat Trick, they generated shot attempts, shots and scoring chances at a higher rate with the man advantage than any other game this season, and high-danger chances at a higher rate than all but three.

The two Norris Trophy winners who combined for the game-winner were a big reason why. Karlsson was on the ice for 18 of the Sharks’ 23 shot attempts on the power play, nine of the 11 scoring chances and all three of the high-danger chances. Burns, meanwhile, attempted a season-high six shots on the power play and generated two scoring chances. 

The Sharks have scored five power-play goals in their last two games, but there's still room for improvement. As of Wednesday, they’re in the top 12 in shot-attempt and shot rates but just 16th and 13th, respectively, in scoring chance and high-danger chance rates, per Natural Stat Trick. More performances like Tuesday's, and the Sharks should climb. 

Dillon’s goal, meanwhile, was the Sharks’ league-leading fourth short-handed goal of the year. San Jose has been able to generate a decent amount of offense on the penalty kill all season, attempting shots at a higher rate than all but four teams and creating scoring chances at the eighth-highest rate in the NHL. It helps that the team has scored on 23.53 percent of its short-handed shots, a percentage that is largely unsustainable. 

The Sharks also have given up plenty of good looks on the penalty kill. They’ve suppressed shots well, but they entered Wednesday allowing the eighth-highest rate of scoring chances and the second-highest rate of high-danger chances. The difference Tuesday was goaltending, as Martin Jones stopped every shot he faced on the penalty kill.

Still, the Sharks have been better on the penalty kill as a whole over the last five games. During that span, they have allowed shot attempts, shots and scoring chances at the lowest or second-lowest rates in the league, and high-danger chances at the eighth-lowest. That all represents definite improvement, but it remains to be seen whether or not the Sharks can sustain that over more than a handful of games. 

But if they can, and the power play continues to improve, the Sharks will have nice compliments to their already strong even-strength play. In their best win of the season Tuesday, they got a preview of what that could look like.

Sharks and Flames' race for division crown likely to come down to wire


Sharks and Flames' race for division crown likely to come down to wire

SAN JOSE -- After grinding to get a win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday evening, the San Jose Sharks gained two more points in the standings and are once again tied with the Calgary Flames. San Jose and Calgary have been neck-and-neck for some time now, and as both teams roll through the final 20-plus games of the regular season, things are likely to remain that way.

For starters, both teams have similar schedules moving forward. Both San Jose and Calgary have 10 road games left on their schedules, and both finish up travel through the Eastern Conference by the end of February. San Jose is 16-12-3 on the road this season and holds an 11-9-4 record against Eastern Conference teams. Calgary is in a very similar boat, holding an 18-11-2 road record and having gone 13-6-4 against the Eastern Conference. Both the Sharks and the Flames spend the majority of the month of March in their home barns, where both have been quite dominant -- San Jose has gone 19-5-4 at SAP Center, while Calgary has gone 17-5-5 at the Saddledome.

Health will be a major factor in determing how each team does down the stretch. Flames’ forward James Neal took a beating last week, getting eight teeth knocked out against the Canucks and then sustaining an upper-body injury against the Panthers. While Neal hasn’t contributed much on the scoresheet this season, Calgary won’t want to lose any other players who bring playoff experience to the table. The Sharks, on the other hand, are coming off a nearly two-month stretch where they battled to fill in the holes created by injuries to their blue line. Now that they finally have Erik Karlsson back in the lineup after nearly a month, staying healthy through the end of February and into March would be a big help.

[RELATED: Bay Area Unite: Jerebko visits Sharks on Warriors Night]

There’s an area where the Flames and Sharks are in drastically different positions, and that's in reference to the trade deadline. San jose isn’t expected to be very active ahead of the February 25 deadline, outside of perhaps picking up a rental player to fill out their bottom six. The Flames, on the other hand, are expected to be busy. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports Calgary could be looking to pick up another forward at the trade deadline -- and if Neal is sidelined for any long stretch, that move may be more necessary -- or maybe pick up another defenseman. While adding a couple of pieces at the deadline likely won’t change the complexion of the entire team, Calgary could still get a potential boost if they make the right moves. 

The Sharks and Flames play one more game against each other during the regular season, with the Sharks hosting that matchup on March 31. At that point, both teams will have just three games remaining before the postseason gets underway. Given how similar these teams are, don’t be surprised if the fight for first place comes down to the wire. 

Jonas Jerebko, Sharks show mutual admiration in Bay Area Unite moment

Jonas Jerebko, Sharks show mutual admiration in Bay Area Unite moment

Bay Area Unite, indeed …

The Sharks showed their support for the back-to-back NBA champion Warriors by wearing Dubs-themed warm-up jerseys before Saturday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Pretty sweet threads, if we do say so ourselves.

Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko, who was in attendance at SAP Center, likely agreed.

Jerebko was born and raised in Sweden, and he's a huge hockey fan. So, it wasn’t a surprise that he’d use the NBA All-Star break to catch a game at The Tank -- especially on Warriors Night.

In fact, Jerebko once practiced with the Detroit Red Wings, and he told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kerith Burke in October that “my slap shot was really, really good.” Makes sense: Jerebko’s 6-foot-10 frame would provide a lot of leverage on the puck.

After San Jose's 3-2 win, Jerebko visited fellow Swedes Erik Karlsson and Marcus Sorensen in the Sharks’ locker room, and they exchanged jerseys.

Seeing the Warriors and the Sharks together has us dreaming of double championship parades in June. Or, perhaps, one big Bay Area Unite celebration?