Sharks

Why Sharks’ goaltending struggles don't bode well for NHL playoffs run

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USATSI/AP

Why Sharks’ goaltending struggles don't bode well for NHL playoffs run

The Sharks have had a hard time keeping the puck out of their own net lately. 

San Jose has lost three straight games, and allowed at least four goals in each of the last four. During that span, starting goaltender Martin Jones and backup Aaron Dell have combined for an .847 save percentage in all situations, and an .865 at full strength (per Natural Stat Trick). 

That represents a continuation of the team's season-long goaltending woes. The Sharks entered Wednesday 31st in save percentage (.891), and dead-last in 5-on-5 save percentage (.900).

As NBC Sports' Adam Gretz observed on Tuesday, that perfomance is not befitting of a Stanley Cup contender. It also puts San Jose in some not-so-elite company historically. 

Gretz found that only 16 teams have made the playoffs with bottom-five goaltending over the last quarter-century. Only two (2008-09 Detroit Red Wings, 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers) made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and every other team failed to advance past the second round. 

This context should concern the Sharks, especially in light of Dell's and Jones' solid play in net prior to the last week.  

From the end of the Sharks' bye week until March 11, Jones (.919 5-on-5 save percentage) and Dell (.929) were far better than before the NHL All-Star break. Jones got the bulk of the work in the crease, and his 5-on-5 save percentage matched that of his first three seasons in teal. 

But since the Sharks' 5-4 road win over the Winnipeg Jets on March 12, Jones (.837) and Dell (.900) have struggled. Neither received much help defensively in San Jose's loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, but the Sharks haven't been that much worse in their own end in front of the two goalies -- at least at full strength.

In the last four games, the Sharks have allowed 5-on-5 scoring chances (22.14 SCA/60) and dangerous chances (7.7 HDCA/60) at lower rates than they have on the season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Per their data, Jones has actually faced 5-on-5 shots at a further distance (42.88 feet) in the last four games than the season as a whole (36.11 feet). 

It's possible that Jones and Dell are just experiencing an ill-timed blip on their season-long radar, which is a definite possibility considering how small of a sample size we're dealing with. That's also why their penalty-kill save percentages over that span, in fewer than 11 minutes of shorthanded action apiece, aren't all that meaningful in terms of predictive power. 

[RELATED: Sharks clinch NHL playoff spot, now chase Pacific title]

You could probably say the same about each goaltender's improvement after the All-Star break, too. The full-season sample is far more meaningful as the postseason nears, and as Gretz noted, it's far from encouraging. 

Jones has turned it on each of the last three postseasons for San Jose. He posted a higher save percentage in the playoffs than the regular season every time, including during the Sharks' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. 

If San Jose is going to get back there this spring, he'll have to heat up in a hurry. 

NHL apologizes to Vegas for bad penalty call in Game 7 loss to Sharks

NHL apologizes to Vegas for bad penalty call in Game 7 loss to Sharks

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes the five-minute major penalty that changed the course of Game 7 between the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights was a bad call, and it turns out the league agrees,

Golden Knights general manager George McPhee told reporters Thursday that the league called and apologized to him for the five-minute major penalty on Cody Eakin during the third period of Tuesday's Game 7.

"The league did reach out and apologize," McPhee said, via The Las Vegas Review-Journal. "They made a mistake and I'm sure (the officials) feel bad about it. They want to get things right like we all do when we're doing our jobs." 

The five-minute major for a dangerous hit on Joe Pavelski opened the floodgates for the Sharks. Down 3-0 when Eakin went to the box, San Jose scored four goals during the power play to take a one-goal lead. The Sharks eventually won in overtime on Barclay Goodrow's series-clinching goal

After the game, Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault ripped the refs for their "embarrassing call," saying they helped the Sharks "steal" Game 7. 

Up until that point in the series, the Sharks were 4-for-29 on the power play, but Vegas' penalty-killing unit was unable to stop Team Teal from erasing a three-goal deficit in a four-minute span. Vegas can complain all it wants but eventually, the Golden Knights have to look in the mirror.

That being said, giving up four goals in four minutes is a tough pill to swallow, but having the league admit they blew the call is just pouring salt in the wound. 

The NHL Department of Hockey Operations announced that referees Dan O'Halloran and Eric Furlatt would not be officiating in the second round, per ESPN. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Game 7 win joins greatest comebacks in Bay Area sports history]

The Sharks will now face the Colorado Avalanche with Game 1 slated for Friday. 

Sharks-Vegas Game 7: Why Kerry Fraser thinks game-changing penalty wrong call

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AP

Sharks-Vegas Game 7: Why Kerry Fraser thinks game-changing penalty wrong call

Game 7 of the Sharks' Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights will be remembered for a call and a comeback, and Kerry Fraser can empathize.

In the third period Tuesday, Vegas Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct. On a face-off in the Vegas end, Eakin shoved Sharks captain Joe Pavelski in the path of Eakin's teammate Paul Stastny, and Pavelski's collision with Stastny caused the San Jose forward to hit his head on the ice. Pavelski bled from his head, and needed assistance off of the ice. The Sharks scored four goals on the ensuing non-releasable penalty, and ultimately extended their postseason while ending the Golden Knights' with a 5-4 win.

The longtime NHL referee tweeted Wednesday he thought the penalty was too harsh.

Vegas coach Gerard Gallant and forward Jonathan Marchessault told reporters they felt badly Pavelski was hurt, but laid into referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O'Halloran after the Sharks' win. Gallant said the referees told him Eakin hit Pavelski in the face, but replay indicated his cross-check caught his San Jose counterpart closer to the chest.

Fraser faced similar criticism after failing to call Wayne Gretzky -- then with the Los Angeles Kings -- for a high-sticking penalty against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I’m sure they’re gonna feel like I am, sick in the pit of my stomach. We’ve all been there,” Fraser told The Athletic. “I have the same feeling I had that night on the ice.”

Fraser's call, much like Tuesday's, marked a turning point. Gretzky's stick hit Maple Leafs forward Doug Gilmour in the face, drawing blood while the Kings had a power play in overtime. The Leafs led the series 3-2 at the time, and could have clinched a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with a win. But the Kings tied it 3-3 thanks to a Game 6-winning goal from -- you guessed it -- Gretzky.

Toronto ultimately lost Game 7, and the Leafs haven't gotten as close to a Stanley Cup in the interceding 26 years. Vegas doesn't have the Original-Six pedigree, but Golden Knights fans got a great taste of Leafs fans' gripes over the last quarter-century in their second season following the team.

Vegas' complaints are warranted, just as Toronto's were at the time. However, both teams still had chances to make up for it.

[RELATED: Check out Sharks-Avalanche second-round game schedule]

The Golden Knights failed to score on a power play of their own following the five-minute major, and could not score in overtime after Marchessault tied the game with 47 minutes remaining in regulation. Vegas also lost two previous close-out games -- one in San Jose, and one in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Arena.

Similarly, Toronto still had a home game of its own and a chance to advance in Game 7. The Leafs and Kings were tied with fewer than five minutes remaining, before Los Angeles scored two goals in a 37-second span.

Both calls will live in playoff infamy, but they didn't have to.