Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gerard Gallant Thought Doughty's Hit on Carrier Was "Bad"

William Carrier made a massive impact on the Vegas Golden Knights 1-0 win over the Kings on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena, but his night was cut short when he was knocked out of the game on a questionable hit by Drew Doughty in the third period. Doughty got a good piece of Carrier's head on a hit that originated at the shoulder. While commentating for NBC Sports, Ray Ferraro seemed to think that the hit wasn't dirty because Doughty targets the shoulder of Carrier, and makes contact their before progressing to the head.

That said, the hit sure does look similar to a lot of head shots that were awarded suspensions in the past. Doughty comes clear across the ice and recklessly targets Carrier, ending his night with a pretty severe blow. That's playoff hockey, I guess.

It was tough for Vegas to see Carrier get knocked out of the game on such a productive night. He was a physical, disruptive force for the Golden Knights in his NHL playoff debut.

Carrier was credited with a game-high ten hits in 8:49 if ice time, many of which targeted Doughty. Carrier also led the Golden Knights in 5-on-5 Corsi percentage (15,5, 75%) in the game. He was on ice for 5 scoring chances for and 2 against.

"That first period I think he had six big hits and they were all clean, hard hits--he played a good hockey game," Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant said of Carrier. "He's basically day to day and we'll see where we're at tomorrow."

When asked to give his take on the hit, Gallant gave his opinion: "I thought it was a bad hit, but again, it's not for me to decide. The referees didn't think it was a penalty but I'm sure people will look at that hit and they'll make a decision on it."

Based on the relatively low level of outcry about this hit, it's hard to imagine the NHL taking disciplinary action against Doughty for the hit, but we'll stay tuned tomorrow to see if there's any news.

The Golden Knights 1-0 victory marked the franchise's first ever playoff triumph. Game 2 will be played Friday night in Las Vegas.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sharks vs. Ducks Preview: 9 Keys to the Series

After a rugged 1-4-1 stretch to finish the regular season the San Jose Sharks will look to bounce back after falling to third place in the Pacific and handing the Anaheim Ducks home ice advantage in their first round series. In a lot of ways it's a bitter pill to swallow--Anaheim went 26-10-5 at home vs. 18-15-8 on the road, so the Sharks would have been better off keeping the Ducks away from the Honda Center as much as possible.

But it wasn't to be and Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer nevertheless remained upbeat when speaking to media after San Jose finished up its regular season with a 6-3 loss to the Wild on Saturday.

"One game doesn't define our season and I think if someone told me a month ago that we'd have 100 points I would have taken that regardless of whether we had home ice or who we were playing or not," he said. "There was a lot of good work done this year and we've got a ticket to the playoffs which is something that's very hard to earn and there's a lot of good teams that don't--now it's us to make the most of that."

That's typical DeBoer, who has been a calm voice of reason behind the Sharks bench ever since he came to the Sharks three seasons ago. There's no panic in he head coach and there's no panic in this team, which has suffered its fair share of adversity this season and always found a way to come up big at gut check time.

It's been a surprisingly successful season for the Sharks in a lot of ways. The team entered this year with so many question marks about how they would replace Patrick Marleau's production and many feared that they'd be too old and too slow to compete. But contributions from Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Joakim Ryan have made the future look a lot brighter. There were bumps in the road early, but as the season has progressed, the Sharks have developed into a team that has the potential to make a playoff run. But it's easier said than done now that they have been forced on the road against a very dangerous Anaheim team.

The Ducks finished the season on an an 10-1-1 tear and look very much like a team that is peaking at the right time. Like the Sharks they are a stingy team that relies on scoring by committee and a well-balanced attack. The team's first playoff meeting since 2009 should be a physical, edgy battle with plenty of tight-checking and low-scoring games.

Here's 9 Keys to the Series

Evander Kane's Health

Evander Kane has 14 points in seven games with the Sharks and he provided the team a huge boost when he was first acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline. Kane was flying everywhere, generating zone entries with his speed and shot attempts by virtue of his willingness to go anywhere to chase a play.

And he hit everything that moved.

The Sharks looked so good with Kane in full flight on Joe Pavelski's line and he seemed to serve as an emotional conduit, with the whole team ratcheting up their physicality and follow his lead. But Kane has picked up an injury and has not been the same over the last week. He skipped a pair of games before returning for the season finale on Saturday, but he has still been unable to match the intensity that he had through most of March. Kane has been held scoreless (minus-3) in those final three games and the Sharks need him to get healthy in order to have an edge over Anaheim.

How serious is his injury? What EVEN IS THE INJURY? We likely will never know the latter, but hopefully the former question will be answered on Thursday night.

Oh, by the way, San Jose is 11-5-1 with Kane in the lineup this season.

Chris Tierney, Mikkel Boedker Need to come through

One of the unsung heroes of the Sharks this season has been Chris Tierney, and he needs to continue to impress because the Sharks are going to need strong play from all four of their forward lines to hold the Ducks at bay. Anaheim boasts a third line of Adam Henrique, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, and that line has provided the Ducks with a lot of spark down the stretch. Depth scoring will be so critical in this series, and so will defensive zone draws and coverage. Mikkel Boedker will also need to keep playing well. The Dane has been the Sharks No.2 point producer at 5-on-5 since Thornton went down with his MCL injury. If Boedker disappears, as he has done so often over the last few seasons in San Jose, it will hurt.

John Gibson's Health

Out since April 1 with an upper body injury, John Gibson will need to find his health--and form--for the Ducks to have success. The 24-year-old has been injury prone and last year he had to miss most of the final two games of Nashville's six-game victory over the Ducks in the Western Conference final. Gibson is a proven playoff goaltender now, just like Martin Jones, but if he can't get healthy or stay healthy, San Jose will have a distinct advantage in this series. According to Eric Stephens of the OC Register, Gibson was on the ice today (Monday) for practice.

In Miller Ducks Trust?

If Gibson fails to stay healthy the Ducks will hope that Ryan Miller can hold the fort. The 37-year-old has done so admirably, going 4-0-0 in his last four since Gibson went down. He also has a .928 save percentage in 28 games this season (12-6-6).

Power Play vs. Penalty Kill

The power play has suffered a lot lately for the Sharks, and for the Ducks it has been bad all season. San Jose was ranked 5th in the NHL (22.7%) when Thornton went down with his knee injury on January 23rd. Since then they've had the NHL's 27th best power play (16.5%). It hasn't been pretty. Luckily for the Sharks the Ducks haven't been much better. They're clicking at a 17.8% rate this season, which is 23rd overall. It seems like a wash on paper, but if one of these teams can oil up the power play and score some big goals it could mean the difference in what promises to be a very close series.

Brent Burns Needs to Be Good at Both Ends

Brent Burns is going to play a big role driving the Sharks offense in this series, and how well he does that will play a big role in San Jose's effectiveness. But perhaps even more important than that will be how well Burns limits his mistakes on the defensive end. Marc-Edouard Vlasic will take the Sharks toughest minutes and most of the defensive zone draws, but Burns will still need to be steady and physical in his own end, and avoid the types of turnovers that sometimes plague him. Mistakes get magnified in a seven-game series and it only takes a few to tilt the scale. Burns has been a force in the second half of the season, and he'll need to continue doing that, while also helping D partner Joakim Ryan through his first NHL postseason experience, in order for the Sharks to win.

Can the Sharks Expose Anaheim's Third Pair?

Without Cam Fowler and Kevin Bieksa, Anaheim will have to turn to an inexperienced third pairing of Marcus Pettersson and Andy Welinski. Combined those two players have 29 games of NHL experience. If the Ducks want to add experience, they'll plug in Korbinian Holzer, a 30-year-old journeyman who has 135 NHL games under his belt (plus five playoff games last season). Randy Carlyle will look to get the third pairing sheltered minutes, while the Sharks will look to find ways to "unshelter" those minutes. It's only 10 minutes a game, but if San Jose can find ways to expose this green pairing, it could pay big dividends.

Matchup: Couture vs. Kesler

This seems to be the matchup that Randy Carlyle will favor, so it will be up to Couture, who led the Sharks with 34 goals, to produce with one of the NHL's most effective playoff bests in his jock for much of this series. Kesler had offseason hip surgery and didn't return to the lineup until after Christmas. Since then he's had a less than stellar year but he has shown signs of coming around in the last month. Kesler's line, featuring Jacob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano, is coming off its best month of the season. They have put up 10 goals at 5-on-5 while allowing just four since March 1.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sharks Report: 5 Takes on San Jose's 7th Straight Win

So what did we learn from the Sharks 5-1 win over the Flames at SAP Center on Saturday? Here's 5 takeaways:

1. Timo Meier Continues to Evolve into a Powerhouse

Counted five zone entries with possession for Timo Meier in the first period alone on Saturday, and the third led to Brenden Dillon's opening goal of the game. He wasn't among the three stars of the game but there is so much to like about the way that Meier is playing with Chris Tierney and Kevin Labanc. It honestly feels like he's everywhere. He's fast. He's physical. He's hungry for the puck and willing to go to the net. He backchecks. And best of all, we may just be beginning to see what Meier can be as a full-time pro.

Meier is 4th on the Sharks in 5-on-5 Goals/60 (.96) and 5th on the Sharks in 5-on-5 Points/60 (1.73).

Meier is second to Joe Pavelski (17) with 15 5-on-5 goals this season. He may have only picked up one assist last night but he once again showed why he is becoming a force for the Sharks, particularly in the first period.

2. Paul Martin is Improving

Martin has had four games alongside Brent Burns and he's been a +1 each game and has looked better with more ice time. The 37-year-old played a season-high 17:19 on Saturday and seems to be getting his legs beneath him. Not saying he's going to be a world-beater, but he might be making Peter DeBoer think about what he's going to do when Joakim Ryan gets healthy. At the very least Martin will provide some nice depth for the playoffs, which is far better than Sharks fans could have hoped for when Martin was playing for the Barracuda and looking like he was headed for a trade or a buyout this winter.

In four games since returning to the lineup, Martin has been on ice for four goals for and zero against at 5-on-5--hard to complain about that too much.

3. Burns Busting Records Like a Boss

Remember back in November when we were wondering if Brent Burns would ever score let alone be the Sharks point leader in late March? Well there he is, tied for the team lead in scoring with 60 points. On Saturday Burns broke the Sharks all-time assist record for defenseman with his 49th helper.

Since January 1st Burns leads all NHL defenseman with 35 points. He's also a plus-1 in that span, compared to minus-16 before the new year. Burns has also been solid on the defensive end of late. Last night he showed some nice awareness on a two-on-one against by taking away the pass to Mikael Backlund and letting Kevin Labanc handle the shooter Troy Brouwer with back pressure. It was the type of play where Burns could have easily tried to do too much (think sprawl out face-first or overplay the shooter) but he showed some real poise and let Martin Jones do his job and make the save (good plan these days, and we'll get to Jones in a bit).

These good numbers are coming for Burns despite the fact that he is shooting at 3.6 percent this year compared to 9.1 percent last season.

4. Martin Jones stopped 37 of 38 shots for his sixth consecutive win

Jones has been a horse of late and he's on a six-game winning streak (6-0-0) in his last six with a .922 save percentage and a 2.32 GAA. Jones current save percentage of .918 would match his career-best if the season ended today.

Jones is a big reason that the Sharks have not allowed a power play goal to the opposition in 11 straight home games. They are 19 for 19 in that span.

5. Jannik Hansen is alive!

The Dane has finally found a home on the Sharks fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Eric Fehr. Hansen went 39 games without a goal this season and now he has two in the last three games after his beauty deflection that gave San Jose a 2-0 lead last night. Every little bit helps and if Jannik Hansen can get himself on track down the stretch it certainly can't hurt. Hansen did score double-digit goals for five seasons in a row with the Canucks, including 22 in 2015-16, so he clearly has room to move to the upside here in San Jose.

Parting Notes: Evander Kane remains a terror in teal

Oh my word how good has Evander Kane been for the Sharks. He nets another pair of goals and continues to play his very unique brand of disruptive smashmouth hockey for the Sharks. He's been a joy to watch and his stats have been a joy to look at--7 goals and 5 assists since coming to San Jose at the trade deadline. He's had good chemistry with Joe Pavelski and he is constantly wreaking havoc in the offensive zone even when he isn't generating points. He's the type of guy that would be pure misery to play against.

Since the trade deadline, Kane has put up 1.98 Goals/60, good for 5th in the NHL in that span (min 100 min TOI).

Monday, March 19, 2018

Statisfaction 3.19: OEL's 100th, Hello Ryan Donato

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Welcome to the show, Ryan Donato

How's this for an NHL debut? Ryan Donato (1-2—3) became just the second player in Bruins franchise history to record three points in his NHL debut (also: Jarno Kultanen, Oct. 5, 2000). As a junior, Donato led Harvard with 26 goals and 43 points in 29 games this past season and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. He became available when Harvard's season ended over the weekend and he inked a two-year entry-level deal with the B's.

If you are wondering about how the career of Jarno Kultanen turned out--he scored 13 points in 102 NHL games for the Bruins over three seasons. Think Donato's got him beat...

2. Thomas Vanek, Bruin killer

Vanek now has 70 points in 64 games vs. Bruins after notching his 20th of the season during Columbus' 5-4 overtime win on Monday. And yes, it was a sick deflection.

3. Pekka Rinne Rolling

Pekka Rinne has won 11 consecutive starts, tying a career high. His eighth shutout, a 4-0 win over the Sabres on Monday, marks a career high for the Finn, who now boasts a .931 save percentage and a record of 40-9-4.

4. Maybe Eric Staal can get to 45 goals?

Eric Staal scored his 39th goal of the season during the Kings 4-3 win over Minnesota on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center. The 33-year-old is six shy of his career-high (2005-2006). Minnesota has nine games remaining.

5. Woeful Habs shut out again

The Montreal Canadiens were shut out for a team record 12th time on Monday night at Bell Centre, 2-0 by the Panthers. Florida has now shut the Habs out three times in four meetings this season. Montreal averages 2.47 goals per game, and ranks 29th in the NHL with 170 total goals.

6. Another milestone for Luongo

Roberto Luongo made 28 saves to record his 76th career shutout and move into a tie with Tony Esposito and Ed Belfour for ninth on the NHL's all-time list. Luongo, 38, is fourth on the NHL's all-time win list with 468, just 16 wins behind Ed Belfour for third.

7. The Preds are in a league of their own

With tonight's win in Buffalo, the Predators now have points in 15 consecutive games (14-0-1) which sets a franchise record (In 2015-16, the Predators went 9-0-5 over a 14-game stretch). The Predators have also earned points in 15 consecutive road games, which extends a franchise record and have won nine straight away from home, another club record.

Nashville has scored 59 goals and allowed 27 during the streak. Victor Arvidsson has caught fire for Nashville over the course of the streak, leading the team with 8 goals and 18 points in the 15 games. Rinne has gone 11-0-0 with a .950 save percentage and a 1.64 GAA (plus three shutouts).

8. Ekman-Larsson scores 100th career goal

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored the game-winner in Arizona's 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Monday. OEL becomes just the 6th Swedish defenseman to reach 100 goals, per Craig Morgan of AZ Sports. The others? Nicklas Lidström (264), Börje Salming (150), Fredrik Olausson (147), Calle Johansson (119), Erik Karlsson (125).

9. Flames powerless

Calgary’s powerplay has gone completely invisible, and their playoff chances are taking a hit as a result. In their last 11 games, the Flames have gone 1 for 33 with the man advantage. Calgary is 3-7-1 over that stretch. The Flames are six out of the wild card with two teams (St. Louis and Dallas) between them and a playoff spot. They have nine games left to play.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Donskoi, Meier, Labanc: Keys to Sharks' Survival without Marleau and Thornton

How have the Sharks managed to survive the loss of Patrick Marleau all season and Joe Thornton since January 23rd? The steady rise and improvement of three players--Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi.

Sure there are a lot of reasons the Sharks are winning games other than these three. We could talk about Logan Couture, the team's best offensive player all season, or look to the improved offensive play of Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The rise of Chris Tierney as a bottom six center has also been a nice development. But we said at the beginning of the season that Meier and Labanc would have to take a stop, and we also believed that Donskoi and Tomas Hertl would have to re-establish themselves as threats. They all have. We'll leave Hertl for another discussion. For now let's look at how much better each of the three aforementioned players have been at 5-on-5:

Donskoi: Goals per 60 have risen to .83 from .41 at 5-on-5. Points per 60 up to 1.88 from .98.

Meier: Goals per 60 have risen to .97 from .45 at 5-on-5. Points per 60 up to 1.59 from .91.

Labanc: CF/60 up to 68.5 from 56.28. CA/60 down to 54.7 from 57.91. Labanc has the second highest CF Rel on the Sharks at 5.39. Donskoi has the highest at 6.35. Meier is fourth at 4.32.

Here's a table that shows where the Sharks forwards rank in terms of 5-on-5 percentage of scoring chances relative to their teammates. Again it shows that Meier, Donskoi and Labanc are among the best on the team at generating chances in their end.

Full credit goes to the Sharks leadership and the coaching of Peter DeBoer. There have been a lot of growing pains and it is not always easy to be patiend in the midst of a playoff race when the sky may or may not be falling around you. But San Jose has patiently weathered all storms this season--including doubts about the form of No.1 goaltender Martin Jones--without ever falling out of the hunt in the Pacific.

Losing Marleau and not Thornton are very difficult circumstances. The sudden irrelevance of Paul Martin was another hurdle. But each time this team has been presented with a challenge, somebody has stepped in and taken the reins. Joakim Ryan has become indespinsable on the blue line and Tim Heed and Dylan DeMelo have been key contributors.

It all adds up to a team that is 30-18-8 and looking pretty solid in the playoff picture. It could have been far worse.

By no means are the Sharks a Western Conference juggernaut. But they have had key players make significant strides and because of that they are relevant. They may be old but there is youth in San Jose. Thanks to the rise of Meier (21), Labanc (22) and Donskoi (25), the Sharks' future looks a lot brighter than it did after last season's playoff loss to Edmonton.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Pros and Cons of Isles Locking up Mayfield for Five Years

What should we make of the Islanders signing Scott Mayfield long term? Probably not much, because the price tag is so low that Mayfield could end up earning closer to one percent of the Islanders cap than two when his deal is done. Problem is, the Islanders have some skilled young defenseman in the pipeline and they'll be stuck with Mayfield for better or for worse through the 2023-24 season.

Do they want that? Apparently yes.

Mayfield's signing doesn't provide any short-term relief to a defense that is reeling with the losses of Calvin de Haan and Johnny Boychuk. It was pretty obvious when Travis Hamonic was dealt in the off-season that the Islanders were going to have a thin blue line but without their second and third best blue liners they look just plain abysmal and it's hard to say if Mayfield is doing much to help the cause.

A quick check of Natural Stat Trick shows that Mayfield has done okay from an analytical perspective, and that's nice. He's actually leading the Islanders in 5-on-5 points per 60, goals per 60 and assists per 60, which is remarkable when you think about it.

You have to consider these numbers a pro for Mayfield, who has been on ice for 20 goals for and 20 goals against while at 5-on-5 this season. He hasn't been killing the Islanders but he doesn't seem to be a great fit with New York's style, which revolves around quick transition and is pretty complex for a slow-footed player like Mayfield. To his credit he's pretty sound positionally but he often times looks overmatched in one-on-one battles, particularly those that revolve around quickness or puck savvy. In other words, yes, he's physical and can separate an attacker from the puck, but how often is he able to get into position to do that separation against better players?

Maybe it won't matter because Mayfield is being signed to play third-pair minutes, but it is concerning to see how much penalty kill time he's getting. He averaged 1:40 of shorthanded ice time per game in December and the Islanders penalty kill was an absolute train wreck, putting up a 64.3 percent kill rate for the month. Blame the goaltending all you want, but you could also point at Mayfield being overmatched when facing elite players while shorthanded.

Bottom line: It's not the end of the world.

This is a small deal and it doesn't really change anything in Brooklyn. The Islanders need to updgrade their d by trade or this season will be lost and no pep talk by Doug Weight is going to change that fact. How do they do it? I'll leave it up to everybody on twitter. Hit me up: @TheFanChild.

Mayfield has played 65 NHL games and hopes are that he'll improve. He has the size, the attitude and the tenaciousness to be a solid third-pair defender. He can be better on breakouts. He can be a lot quicker at reading and reacting to developing danger. He can have better gaps and be a more powerful skater. These are the things he'll have to figure out to help the Islanders.

Personally, think the Islanders are in a lot more danger defensively than they even realize. I'm not convinced that Ryan Pulock, Mayfield or Seidenberg have what it takes to be effective NHLers at any spot on the depth chart. de Haan could be gone after the season and Hickey as well. It leaves the Islanders with three defenseman--Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuck and Adam Pelech--that have promise. Some might disagree on Pelech, but I think he's solid and getting better. I actually like him as a very good third pair player down the road. As for the second pair, New York better start shopping while at the same time hoping that Devon Toews and Mitchell Vande Sompel are ready to fulfill their promise in the not too distant future.

They've got draft picks that they will either need to use on drafting some high quality defensemen or parlay to improve the term short-term. Four picks in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft is nothing to scoff at--Garth Snow should be able to upgrade his team through trade and still have retain a few of those picks.

It makes sense for the Isles to lock up Mayfield for the forseeable future because it gives them some depth at the position for a very low price. AT the very worst the Islanders have a No.7 defenseman who is ready to play on any given night. If he improves and Garth Snow looks smart, hey it wouldn't be the first time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sharks Report: Couture Not Ready, Labanc and Meier Steadily Improving

It was a nice way to head into Xmas break for the San Jose Sharks: a shutout of their rivals on home ice. The Sharks got it done on Saturday, 2-0 over the Kings, and closed the gap between themselves and first place to six points. But more than anything it was a statement win by San Jose on a night when both teams brought their A games.

Here are the Pacific Standings at Xmas:

Here are 5 thoughts on the win and the state of the Sharks as they break for four days from Dec 24 through 27.

All stats provided by @NatStatTrick.

1. Has Peter DeBoer finally found a way to bring Jannik Hansen to life?

Along with Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen has been one of the more disappointing Sharks of late. Both Danes have failed to produce offense, but Hansen, to his credit, has always shown a willingness to engage and to lay his body on the line. But three points in 24 games? That leaves a bit to be desired. But things could be on the upswing for Hansen. In the last two games Hansen has had the opportunity to play with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski and his energy has been high. So far it hasn't added up to much at even strength, but it might be an experiment that DeBoer continues. Here's what the numbers look like for Pavelski/Thornton/Hansen thus far.

2. Marcus Sorensen looks very good on the fourth line

It's a relatively small sample size, yes. But let's take a moment to consider the fact that Marcus Sorrenson, a 5'11" Tasmanian Devil-like forward, is currently the Sharks points per 60 leader at 5-on-5. He's put up three goals and is averaging 2.37 points per 60 in 75 minutes of total ice time. The Swede looks like a keeper on the fourth line, and he's making himself appear more valuable every time he finds the twine.

3. Labanc and Meier steadily improving

If we look at just the month of December we can see that Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are very impactful players at the moment. Each has scored four points at 5-on-5 in December to tie for the team lead among forwards. Four points doesn't sound like a lot but in Sharks terms it is. That's the reality in San Jose right now. Points don't grow on trees. Plus, when we look at October and November, we can see that Labanc had two 5-on-5 points and Meier had four. Each player has made significant improvements in point efficiency since. Meier was .99 per 60 in Oct/Nov, while Labanc was .59 points per 60. In December They've each improved significantly in the 11 games they've played. Labanc put up 1.9 points per 60, while Meier put up 1.68.

It's also significant that both players have been able to make these strides with Peter DeBoer's blender in full effect and with the absence of Logan Couture of late. The Sharks have scrambled to roll four effective lines and Labanc and Meier have found ways to contribute without relying on the team's biggest stars.

4. Meier/Tierney/Donskoi a formidable third line for the moment

Again, small sample size, and it's not all that likely that this line can stay together for too long as Donskoi may be needed in the top six group, but 28/50/27 appear to have some special mojo going. Look at these possession stats (a 63 percent Corsi? That's something to write home about):

5. Couture will take his time before returning

You can't replace a player of Logan Couture's caliber, especially this season, when he's far and away the Sharks leader in goals (15) and the team's overall scoring leader with 26 points. But that is exactly where San Jose will be as it heads out of the Christmas break and prepares to face the Calgary Flames on Wednesday at SAP Center.

According to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, Couture skated for the first time since suffering a concussion on Friday December 22nd (10 minutes, after practice), and while things went well, Couture is clearly not confident that he's nearing a return.

Here's a snippet from Kurz' piece:

“It’s a long way away. … There’s a lot of stuff that has to happen for me to come back. You can’t just skate (once) and then say you’re fine,” Couture said. “I’m not playing if I don’t feel good. It could be one game, it could be 10 games, it could be a whole season. With head injuries you don’t know. There’s no timeline. Everyone is different, everyone handles it different, everyone’s brain handles it different. These are the injuries that it’s tough to judge timelines.”

And here's the whole article, as it was tweeted last Friday:

The Sharks are 2-1 since Couture went down on Dec. 15 in Vancouver. Good teams play through--and grow through--adversity, and it appears that the Sharks are doing just that.

Notes, Numbers, Tweets:

Sharks Outtakes:

This may even be better than the actual Sharks holiday video.

Sharks With and Without Donskoi:

The Sharks have scored 13 goals and allowed 10 at 5-on-5 with Donskoi on the ice this season. Without him they've allowed 49 and scored just 38.

Sharks With and Without Pavelski and Thornton

One area where the Sharks need to be better is the top line. The Sharks have scored 13 and allowed 20 with the two joes on at even strength. A lot of it has to do with the revolving door on this line, but San Jose can and will be even better with some more dominance from the top line.

Last year San Jose scored 42 and allowed 34 with Pavelski and Thornton on the ice together at 5-on-5.

All stats provided by @NatStatTrick.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Isles Report: Comeback Squandered as Ducks Tie Late and Win in OT

The Islanders continue to struggle with defense and goaltending and ended up with an overtime loss to the Ducks that drops them to 3-6-2 in December. It could have been an inspiring victory but Rickard Rakell potted a late goal at 18:45 of the third with Ryan Miller pulled, then Hampus Lindholm completed his first career hat-trick at 4:03 of overtime to give Anaheim a much-needed two points.

Here are five thoughts on the Islanders latest loss:

1. The Isles don't look good at 5 on 6

It was way too easy for Anaheim to tie this game, and it was way too strange that Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech were out as a pair when the goal was scored. But that is the reality on the Islanders blue line right now. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk can't play 60 minutes a game. End of story. The Isles D corps are short on experience and oftentimes slow to react to danger. The overtime goal saw both Mayfield and Pelech tied up in front of the net while Rakell drifted in a dangerous area at the right circle, where he was able to bang a shot home into a virtually empty net.

Enjoy it below:

There was nothing Halak could have done on this play, but it sure looked like Mayfield could have drifted out to challenge the shooter as Pelech seemed to have the front of the crease. Obviously there's going to be a two-on-one in front of the net if Mayfield drifts to cover Rakell, but somebody has to prevent the Ducks' sniper from having a wide open look like that.

It's the second time in three games that the Islanders have allowed a tying goal with the opposition's goalie pulled--not a positive trend.

2. New York is bleeding goals

The Islanders have allowed at least four goals in eight of their eleven games this month. It's not pretty right now. They have allowed five or more goals six times in 11 December games.

3. The Goaltending Isn't Great Either

The Islanders have the NHL's worst save percentage in December at .865. Jaroslav Halak actually played a pretty decent game in goal tonight but he was beaten clean on shots by Hampus Lindholm for the Ducks third goal and the overtime winner. Lindholm ripped both shots, but Halak really could have made both saves. Halak made 35 saves tonight, and in his defense, the Ducks has 36 scoring chances to just 20 for the Islanders. The loss isn't all on him, but despite his solid effort, he could have been sharper, particularly against Lindholm.

Take a look at Lindholm's second goal. The Isles lost the draw and were slow to react. They were careful not to screen Halak, but how about challenging the shooter? Very soft play from the Islanders, who seem to shoot themselves in the foot with plays like this far too often these days. See the play below:

' 4. Pelech and Mayfield Held their Own

I keep wanting to beat up Scott Mayfield because he just looks like he's a step slow in his own zone when he makes reads and when he tries to start the breakout, but from a possession standpoint he and Adam Pelech were the Islanders strongest pair. Mayfield had a 56.67 CF% (17 for, 13 against) at 5-on-5, and he played over ten minutes against Ryan Getzlaf. Pelech had a 55.17 CF% (16 for, 13 against). The Thomas Hickey (8 for 15 against) and Ryan Pulock (7 for, 16 against) pairing got blown up in possession, while Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck were possession neutral but on the short end of the scoring chance battle (9 for 17 against).

It's hard to tell where to place the blame when it comes to the Islanders D, but they are clearly struggling in coverage, breakouts and on the penalty kill. Is there any hope that they can improve or will Garth Snow have to make a deal in the not too distant future to right the ship?

Honestly, it seems like Pulock and Mayfield are in over their heads while trying to play Doug Weight's uptempo system. They are slow-footed and slow to make the reads that spring the plays or break up opponent's opportunities. Maybe Weight's system is fine, but it's just not suited for the bottom four personell that he is currently working with?

What came first the chicken or the egg?

5. The Offense, As Usual, Was Good

There were definitely some signs of life and some good ones at that in this game. A pair of goals from John Tavares, a 5-on-3 goal by Mathew Barzal and Andrew Ladd's 9th of the season helped New York climb back from two-goal deficits twice.

Josh Bailey took over the NHL assist lead with three helpers. He's having an incredible contract year for the Islanders and is in line for a big raise right along with his linemate JT. Will the Islanders have enough cap space to sign them both long-term?

Tavares' pair of goals leaves him with 21 and ties him with Anders Lee for the team lead. Both are now two behind Alexander Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov, who lead the NHL with 23 goals.


Snipe of the Night

Weight Speaks:

The Metro: