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:

The Saucer Pass Hockey Podcast, Episode 19

Today on the Saucer Pass Hockey Podcast we dip into the mailbag to answer listener questions. Like: Who has the Calder lead? (3:30) Does the new building increase the likelihood of Tavares signing with Isles? (18:48) What will Vegas do at the deadline if they are in first? (9:40) Who will make the playoffs from the Metropolitan Division? (11:05) Who has been the most entertaining player to watch this season? (17:10) Is Anaheim a Playoff team? (20:30) Who is the NHL's biggest surprise this season? (6:40) WE also talk about the Islanders thin blue line, poor goaltending and putrid power play. (15:30) And we say MERRY XMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Penguins Acquire Oleksiak from Stars

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has made the first two of what could be many trades.

On Tuesday the Pens dealt Josh Archibald, goalie prospect Sean Maguire and a sixth-round pick in 2019 to the Coyotes for veteran AHL goalie Michael Leighton and a fourth-round pick in 2019. Pittsburgh then turned that pick around to acquire 25-year-old Oleksiak for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft.

“This is a guy who can really skate," Rutherford said of Oleksiak, who has three points and is a minus-6 in 21 games for Dallas this season. "He's an excellent skater for a guy that big. Plus, he sees the ice well and will make things easier for our left-handed defensemen because they won't have to play on the right side as much.”

Pittsburgh is struggling at 17-15-3, two points outside of the final wild card in the Eastern Conference and in sixth in the Metropolitan Division.

Can the Isles Survive without Calvin de Haan?

The casual hockey fan may not know who Calvin de Haan is, or even that it's a small "d" not a big "D" in his last name, but that doesn't make dealing with the fact that the Islanders may have lost de Haan for the season when he injured his shoulder in overtime of Saturday's 4-3 win over the Kings any easier.

The Islanders have been surviving with a very green and unproven bottom four on their blue line all season long, and the biggest reason that they have been able to do that is de Haan.

The 26-year-old Ontario native is second on the team in 5-on-5 ice time and he has been a stabilizing force for rookie Adam Pelech on the team's second pair. The two left-handers have played 312 minutes together, and during their minutes the Islanders have scored 17 goals and allowed 15 at 5-on-5.

Rookie Scott Mayfield has also benefitted from de Haan's presence and the pair have played just over 82 minutes together and managed a 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage of 56.6 percent (7 goals for and 3 against). There's a lot to be said for de Haan's veteran presence and his poise this season. He doesn't stand out as an offensive player, but he's gotten better with each season. de Haan's points per 60 (1.18), assists per 60 (1.06) and primary assists per 60 (.59) are all higher than they've ever been through 33 games this season.

The Islanders have regularly been running out three virtual rookies on the blue line (only Pulock is an actual rookie but Mayfield and Pelech are very green and had never played a full season before this year), and they will have to keep doing that for the remainder of the season without one of their key veterans to lead the way.

It won't be easy.

12 points may not be enough to make jaws drop, but de Haan is currently a plus-11 while playing a key role in facilitating the development of 23-year-old Pelech. So not only are the Isles losing de Haan, there also forced to find a new partner that can keep Pelech on an upward trajectory from a development perspective. Much like de Haan, Pelech's performance has been under the radar in 2017, but he's come along nicely compared to where he was last year. His 11 points in 29 games are already one more than he had in 44 last year, and he seems more capable of handling the pace of the game this season.

It's easy to panic but in reality the Islanders should be able to survive without de Haan. And according to head coach Doug Weight, de Haan he may not be out as long as was first suspected.

If de Haan is out for a long period the Islanders will at least get a glimpse of what the team's blue line looks like without him (we'll call this a bleak silver lining). His one-year, $3.3 million deal means he's a free agent at the end of the season. The Islanders can move on from de Haan this summer if they wish, or they can try to sign him at a decent price due to his injury-plagued walk year.

What it will take to sign de Haan long-term is another story for another day, but most believe he will be due $4 million or more. In the meantime the team desperately needs Pulock, Pelech and Mayfield to continue to be better. Each player has shown signs that they are ready to be quality full-time NHL defensemen, but each has shown their weaknesses as well. Mayfield looks like an AHL defenseman sometimes, but he's managed to make up for a lack of footspeed and offensive creativity with a really diligent defensive game and good physicality. Pelech looks like a keeper and a potential top four defenseman but he'll need to keep working on his skating and decision-making. Pulock has been far too timid for his skillset, but has started to come out of his shell of late. He's been more physical and has shown some puck poise in the offensive zone. Five points and a minus-6 in 20 games isn't much to write home about, but Pulock has been better of late as he has developed comfort.

Bottom line? It's going to be a bumpy ride for the Islanders defense this winter without de Haan. New York has allowed 67 5-on-5 goals against already this season, which ranks them 25th in the NHL. As things get tighter down the stretch the Islanders will need to win a few 2-1 and 3-2 games and it's not clear if they have the personnel to get that done (the fact that neither Jaroslav Halak nor Thomas Greiss is playing great will put extra pressure on the D).

Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck are a premier top pair, but the bottom four will be tested.

Will we see a Pulock-Pelech pairing emerge? They pair have developed some chemistry and have a 56.31 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage in just under 54 minutes. If so the Isles will roll two of Thomas Hickey, Dennis Seidenberg and Mayfield to form the other pair.

It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence but both Hickey and Seidenberg have a lot of experience and can mentor Mayfield along.

If all else fails Devon Toews and Sebastian Aho are ranked No.4 and No.5 in scoring by defenseman in the AHL. Is either of them ready for the step up? Might be a good time to find out.

It's not an ideal situation for the Islanders, given that three players in their current top six have under 100 games on their NHL resume.

No matter what happens with Toews and Aho in Bridgeport, one thing has become clear over the course of the Islanders first 33 games: The defense has proven to be a work in progress, and quite frankly, not good enough to make this team a legitimate Cup contender. It's been great to watch Pelech, Pulock and Mayfield come along slowly, and Doug Weight has done a good job at easing their development. But it's sink or swim time in the brutal Metropolitan Division and the Islanders should be actively searching for a second-pair defender that could be a long-term fit. I'm not saying make a desperate move, but by all means GM Garth Snow better be kicking some tires while de Haan's shoulder heals. If things start to go south without de Haan a move might have to be made.

Until then, Islanders fans should cross their fingers and hope that these young defensemen are ready to take the next step.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sharks Report: Couture Injured, but Sharks Come Back from Brink Again

The Sharks managed to pluck a point after a shaky start against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday Rogers Arena. That's the good news. The bad news is that they lost in overtime thanks to a Sam Gagner roof job and they may have lost their leading scorer and best player for some time, as Logan Couture was knocked out of the game after taking a hit from Alexander Burmistrov at 5:12 of the third period.

A couple of notes before we get into bullets:

-- The Sharks have battled back fron deficits of two or more goals to earn points three times in their last five. This team has heart.
-- The Sharks remain in third the Pacific, dropping to 17-10-4 with the OT loss.
-- The Sharks have now scored 85 goals, ranking them 27th in the NHL.
-- The Sharks have allowed just 75 goals, tied with Tampa for the lowest in the NHL.
-- At 53.17%, the Sharks have the NHL's third-highest 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage.

1. No word on Couture Yet

Let's start with the very bad news: Logan Couture was hit in the face by an Alexander Burmistrov shoulder on a third period play that resulted in an interference call on the Russian. The puck went past the two skaters in the corner and Burmistrov elected to throw a hit as Couture went to step around him to track the puck. Couture immediately went down and looked kind of stunned before getting some help to get off the ice and down the tunnel to do the dressing room.

At the moment, we are in the dark about the severity of the injury. It could be a concussion or it could be some follow-up damage to Couture's face, which was reconstructed last season after he took a puck to the face in March. Either way it's not good for the Sharks. Couture has been the go-to guy in San Jose this season. He has put up 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points in 31 games for the Sharks, which includes three game-winners and 10 power play points.

After the game there was no report coming from head coach Peter DeBoer and Couture was not made available for comment, so it's wait and see. The Sharks next play on Monday in Edmonton.

2. Sharks Sleepwalk Through First Period

The Sharks possess one of the most stingy defenses in the NHL, but casual fans wouldn't have guessed that was the case early on Friday in Vancouver. Goalie Martin Jones was peppered by 22 shots in the first stanza, and according to Natural Stat Trick he faced 18 scoring chances at all phases, 11 of which were deemed to be high danger. That does not sound like an exxageration. And while the Sharks tilted the ice in periods two and three to climb back into this game, Jones was huge in net throughout, making several highlight reel saves, including one against Thomas Vanek with the Canucks leading 3-2 in the third that might be the biggest single reason that the Sharks were able to steal a point in this game.

Here it is:

Over at the Athletic Kevin Kurz points out some of Jones' struggles of late--he has allowed four or more goals in his last five starts--but don't let the numbers fool you. He was probably the biggest reason the Sharks didn't get blown out in this one.

Look closely at all four of the Canucks goals and you can see that Jones pretty much had no chance on any of them. Maybe Brock Boeser's PP goal was one he could have stopped, but Boeser is a major league sniper that was left all alone by the Sharks PK unit--not a good idea.

PS... Jones is still stuck on 99 career wins.

3. Burns is getting on track

Brent Burns chipped in with his second multi-goal game in the Sharks' last three contests, and that's a great sign for San Jose's struggling offense. He scored one on the power play and tied the game in the third with a seeing-eye goal from the point. From a possession standpoint Burns was solid with a Corsi % of 60.53 at 5-on-5. He led the Sharks in shot attempts with eight.

Burns now has 13 points in his last 12 games an leads all NHL defenseman in points since Nov. 22.

Speaking of Burns, this fan had a milestone night in Vancouver:
4. Sorensen Gets First Goal of Season

Here's a goal that will buy Marcus Sorensen a few more games in the NHL at the very least. The Swede, who has provided a ton of energy since his most recent callup, was rewarded on Friday. He scored the goal that brought the Sharks within a goal, and if you watch the replay ever so slowly you'll see that Sorensen made a heck of a play getting this puck from skate to stick. The goal was looked at as a potential kick-in but Sorensen made this play clean.

Sorensen had three shot attempts and two high danger opportunities in 11:22 of 5-on-5 time for the Sharks last night.

5. Donskoi Gets Time on Top Line

Peter DeBoer and his blender were in full effect last night as Joonas Donskoi was moved from the third to the second to the first line over the course of last night's game. That meant that Melker Karlsson was moved down and Kevin Labanc was moved all around. Honestly, it gets pretty hard to track at times, but DeBoer has a good feel for the game and who may or may not be able to provide the offense on a given night.

Labanc started the night with Chris Tierney and Timo Meier and that line was pretty solid from a possession standpoint. But Labanc just cannot snap out of his funk. He has now gone 22 games without a goal, not scoring since October 14. Seems like now would be a good time for Danny O'Regan to step in and have a shot. Labanc has seemed like a threat when he's been on the ice, and he led the Shark in Corsi Rel at 5-on-5 last night at 16.69%, but what can you say? No goals in 22 games is pretty hard to get excited about.

Chris Tierney continues to look really impressive with and without the puck for the Sharks. He ranked fourth in Corsi Rel at 5-on-5 last night at 6.92.

Donskoi did not register a shot last night, but still made his presence felt in his usual, puck-houndy way.



MILESTONE: Joel Ward's 300th point
Ward was also a plus-2 last night.