Sharks

Sharks' Brent Burns appreciates connection to STEM programs in schools

Sharks' Brent Burns appreciates connection to STEM programs in schools

SAN JOSE — When the average 5th-grade Sharks fan watches a Brent Burns’ slap shot beeline towards the goal, he or she is probably just worried about whether the puck hits the back of the net or not. The angle of Burns’ shot or the goalie’s save percentage probably isn’t even a blip on their radar.

But SAP’s “Digital Scholars” program is aiming to show students there are math and technology-based jobs in sports too -- ones that look at things like how many goals-against can hurt a netminder's average or how changing the price of merchandise in a team's store can impact sales.

In a hands-on session with students at Baldwin Elementary School in the South Bay, Burns himself had the opportunity to interact with students who are using the program to learn about the different sides of the sports industry, from analytics to jersey sales and more. 

The Norris Trophy winner told NBC Sports California he was impressed -- especially with how quickly the students could make their way through the math-based tasks the program sets up for them.

"It wouldn't be easy for me to do that stuff," Burns laughed after he had watched several students maneuver through the program. 

The initiative's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education platform features a hands-on way of learning, with it's "Data Champions" module that has a focus on football, basketball, and, of course, hockey. Plans for the STEM program to be used in schools emerged in the spring of 2019, with hopes to use the "gamified" program in select schools in seven U.S. states along with Ontario and British Columbia in Canada.

But the laptop-compatible program is more than a video game with a few math-based trivia questions popping up along the way. Although, to be fair, a few questions from the program posed at Thursday's event were hard for even the adults in the room to answer. All in all, it teaches students about some of the detail that goes into jobs surrounding a team -- not just being the star athlete,

So while one task includes moving a puck-scorer to different areas of the offensive zone to get the best shot at a goal, it's also teaching students about turning their interests in this program into future jobs thanks to its "career-pathing" focus, which makes the program more of a job-creating tool and less of a video game.

Something Burns, who spent nearly an hour talking to students about what they were learning from the program, liked about the STEM education overall.

"It was pretty cool to see how it was steering them based on their interests and what they're doing on certain things and what they can look into doing later in life," Burns said. "It's really cool to see that these programs can start tracking based on their interests and what they're clicking on. Just to let them know 'Hey, you might want to look into this.'"

That's high praise from a father of three.

[RELATED: Sharks credit penalty kill in clinching win vs. Hurricanes]

Burns' biggest takeaway was that the program made learning about the different aspects of sports accessible to any student -- whether they're a future athlete or bound to be a stellar statistician. 

"It's all relatable and that's the biggest thing with school," Burns said. "All of this was relatable and it was helping them steer to the future."

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

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AP

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

The Sharks' game on Thursday was, without a doubt, the Tomas Hertl show.

Hertl has been playing at a high level throughout San Jose's current winning streak and added to that successful stretch Thursday by leading San Jose's offense with two goals against the Ducks. But then Hertl left the game in the third period after colliding with Anaheim forward Sam Steel and appearing to injure his leg. Hertl never returned to the game and was not available for comment following the Sharks' 5-3 victory.

Even after the postgame media scrum, there was no update on Hertl's status. But it's no secret that the Sharks, who are finally digging themselves out of their early-season hole, can't afford to lose him from their forward attack.

"He's playing tremendous," Logan Couture told reporters at Honda Center after the game. "You hate to say you get used to it because he's playing at such an elite level. But the way he's been playing over the last two years, he's been at that level. And he's getting better."

The captain isn't mistaken. Hertl really came into his own last season after head coach Peter DeBoer moved him to the center position, taking on more responsibility and becoming an irreplaceable force in San Jose's offensive arsenal. Now, after a slow start to the season, the Czech forward has come alive once again with goals in five straight games and is currently leading his team with 21 points. His performance through the first two periods of Thursday's game perfectly showcased the mix of physicality, goal-scoring prowess and relentless drive that makes him a power forward to be reckoned with. Not to mention, he plays well with a number of players on his wing, and the current combination with Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow has been one of the best lines -- if not the best -- the Sharks have put out on the ice since the start of November.

That's precisely why San Jose can't afford to lose him as the team climbs its way out of the Pacific Division basement.

An injured Hertl wouldn't just force DeBoer to shuffle up his lines, as he also plays an important role on San Jose's special teams, which have been one of the team's saving graces since the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Sharks would be missing a major puzzle piece if Hertl has to miss any games.

The Sharks have a packed schedule through the end of November with a mix of competition to face, from hosting the lowly Detroit Red Wings this upcoming Saturday to visiting the rival Vegas Golden Knights next Thursday. Given how San Jose's season began, there is no opponent on the horizon that the Sharks can look past.

[RELATED: Three questions from fans after Sharks' six-game homestand]

If the injury Hertl sustained Thursday causes him to miss time, San Jose's job becomes that much more difficult.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

BOX SCORE

It wasn't the prettiest or most dominant game the Sharks have played this season. But heck, a win is a win.

San Jose spent a good chunk of Thursday's game trailing the Ducks on the scoreboard. But thanks to some late-game magic from the special teams, Team Teal was able to extend its winning streak to five games with a 5-3 victory over the SoCal rival.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Anaheim.

Stay strong, special teams

In all honesty, the Sharks didn't look like they had the upper hand for the majority of the game. But during a short span in the third period, San Jose completely took over the game thanks to a power-play goal from Brent Burns and a short-handed goal from Evander Kane within less than three minutes of each other.

San Jose's special teams have been one of the few bright spots through the slow start to the season. When facing an opposing goaltender that is on top of his game -- like John Gibson was for Anaheim on Thursday -- being able to score on both the man advantage and the penalty kill is huge.

Hertl power 

While three of the Sharks' four forward lines generated very little offense against the Ducks, Tomas Hertl and his linemates, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow, were on fire. Hertl had quite a night with two goals in the first 40 minutes, extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.

Hertl, Meier and Goodrow also accounted for the majority of San Jose's shots on goal within the first two periods. Although the rest of the offense began to come alive in the third, the Sharks still need to get to a point where all four lines play up to the level that the Hertl's played at against the Ducks.

Not-so-strong second 

Too often this season, the Sharks have followed up a strong first period with a sluggish second. Such was the case on Tuesday night, as San Jose grinded in the first period but came out in the second stanza flat-footed.

To make matters worse, the Sharks couldn't stay out of the penalty box in that period, which allowed Anaheim's dismal power play to find the back of the net. While the Sharks were able to tie the game back up before the period expired, they can't keep undoing all their hard work.