Sharks

Sharks, Hurricanes separated by smallest of margins

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USATSI

Sharks, Hurricanes separated by smallest of margins

Few teams possess the puck more than the Sharks and Hurricanes, but plenty of teams score more.

According to Puck on Net, when adjusting for score and venue, San Jose and Carolina are in the top four of both major possession metrics (corsi and fenwick). They’re 11th and first in the league, respectively, in shots per game, and 29th and 30th in shots allowed.

The Hurricanes and Sharks are also first (54.43 percent) and 13th (50.96 percent) in five-on-five scoring chance percentage, per Natural Stat Trick. Despite this, neither team can finish: Carolina (7.53 percent) is 30th and San Jose is 29th (7.74 percent) in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey.

Unsurprisingly, both teams are in the bottom five of goals for per game this season. Yet, San Jose’s holding on to the last wild card spot in the Western Conference, with at least a game in hand on the three teams chasing them (Calgary, Anaheim, Minnesota), and on the two teams they’re chasing in the Pacific (Vegas, Vancouver).

Carolina, on the other hand, is six points out of the last wild card spot in the East, albeit with three games in hand. Goaltending, particularly on the penalty kill, has been the difference.

Across all situations, the Hurricanes have the league’s 23rd-best save percentage (.900), while the Sharks are second-best (.922). That gap is driven by a shorthanded save percentage disparity, as only half a percentage point separates San Jose (.925) and Carolina (.920) at even strength, per Corsica.

The Sharks have the league’s second-best penalty kill save percentage (.917), while the Hurricanes have the third-worst (.826). If Carolina had gotten San Jose’s shorthanded goaltending this season, they’d have allowed about seven fewer goals.

Excluding shootouts, the Hurricanes’ goal-differential is minus-seven.

The five-on-five difference, assuming they got the same goaltending as the Sharks, is approximately three goals. That’s on a much larger sample size (518 more shots) than the penalty kill.

That shorthanded difference can’t entirely be explained by each team’s respective defense. San Jose allows nearly five fewer scoring chances per 60 minutes on the penalty kill than Carolina, but the Hurricanes allow far fewer shots (50.4 shots against/60) than the Sharks do (59.7).

Taken as a whole, this demonstrates that the margins truly matter for teams struggling to score. The Sharks have gotten better goaltending on the penalty kill, if not necessarily a better defensive performance than the Hurricanes, and find themselves on the right side of the playoff bubble.

If they start to falter shorthanded, however, it’s easy to envision them in the same position as Carolina: on the outside looking in.

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.