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.