While the hockey world turns its attention to Ottawa for the NHL All-Star Game, we turn our attention to the first half in San Jose, with analysis of who did what for the Sharks, and the outlook for each player in the second half. Saturday we'll take a look at the attacking end of the ice.
Dan Boyle Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: One of the biggest questions surrounding the Sharks in the first two months of the season was, whats wrong with Dan Boyle? The versatile defenseman was turning the puck over, not getting open for shots, and not showing his trademark skating prowess. When he revealed he was suffering through a broken foot during that time, it made much more sense, and Boyle is once again at the top of his game. Along with new partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks can boast of one of the best top defense pairings in the Western Conference.
Second half outlook: Boyles early struggles are behind him, and hes once again one of the most important and productive players on the team, getting more than 25 minutes on a nightly basis.
Justin Braun Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Braun seized his opportunity when he was recalled from Worcester (twice), and its doubtful hes going to be seeing any more time in the American Hockey League. He could probably be a little bit more physical at times, as he doesnt lack in size, but thats something he will learn as he gets more and more acquainted to the NHL.
Second half outlook: Braun could be a target for NHL general managers looking for a solid prospect on defense, but its more likely San Jose would offer up Demers before Braun if it came to that. For now, Braun is a solid third-pair defenseman.
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Brent Burns Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Quite possibly the hardest Sharks player to evaluate in the first half. Burns himself admitted even recently hes just now settling in and getting used to the nuances in the Sharks system as compared with Minnesota. His offensive numbers can only be considered a disappointment at the break, but he was showing more of a knack of jumping into the play in the offensive zone to create more scoring chances for him and his teammates in recent weeks.
Second half outlook: Burns appeared to dodge disaster after a knee-on-knee hit in Edmonton on Monday, but may need at least a couple of games off coming out of the break to recover. After that, the key for Burns will be maintaining his solid defensive play while trying to generate more goals and scoring chances he was known for in Minnesota.
Jason Demers Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Demers was benched early in the season before finding his game in early November. He still has work to do if hes going to be a top four defenseman, but typically brings more to the ice than veterans Colin White and Jim Vandermeer on the teams third defense pair.
Second half outlook: The Sharks have depth at defense when fully healthy, which could be a good motivator for Demers, who knows hell have to maintain his game or risk coming out of the lineup again.
Douglas Murray Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Another player who missed significant time to injury (10 games in December), Murray is still one of the Sharks few players that can provide a nightly physical presence. Hes been split up from regular partner Dan Boyle since he got hurt, and now with Brent Burns forms a solid second defense pair.
Second half outlook: Murray is still a reliable top-4 defenseman that can be hard to play against, and seems to have found some chemistry with Burns since regaining his game legs after the injury.
Jim Vandermeer Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: For an eighth defenseman, Jim Vandermeer is about as solid as you can get, and hes made a good account of himself when in the lineup. Thats been rare, though, as the Sharks juggled their eight healthy defensemen for the first couple months before Vandermeer suffered a broken left hand in early December.
Second half outlook: Vandermeer will continue to be used sparingly, probably getting into games that have more a physical element. If the Sharks suffer any significant injuries to their defensemen, Vandermeer is still a good guy to have available.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Arguably the Sharks most valuable player at the break. Vlasic has been a rock on defense, and is probably the biggest reason the team has thrived five-on-five. Hes quite possibly the best defenseman in the league that no ones ever heard of on the East Coast, if you couldnt tell by the All-Star nominees.
Second half outlook: Vlasic will continue to play against the opponents top line with Dan Boyle as his partner. Its hard to imagine that will change at any point in the second half.
Colin White Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: White was not very good when the season started, and was in and out of the lineup until he suffered a hand injury. He had been improving until he was hurt in early December, and is still a good depth guy, but will probably find himself watching from the press box most nights when everyone is healthy.
Second half outlook: Like Jim Vandermeer, White is still a serviceable NHL defenseman in case of emergency.
Thomas Greiss Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Since beginning the year as that Sharks starting goalie for the three games while Antti Niemi recovered from minor surgery, Greiss has settled in and proven himself as a capable NHL backup. Hes allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts (albeit against Columbus twice, and Edmonton), and has outstanding numbers, allowing the club to jettison the veteran (and higher salaried) Antero Niittymaki.
Second half outlook: Niemi will continue to get the majority of the work in net, but with a busy February and March that includes a number of back-to-back games, Greiss will likely see between six and eight more starts. Theres no reason to think his success wont continue.
Antti Niemi Stats Splits Game LogsSeason so far: Niemis beginning of the year was just so-so, but after missing all of training camp and the start of the season, thats understandable. Since then, hes generally looked like the Niemi from last years second half. He struggled leading up to the break in games against Ottawa and Vancouver, but righted the ship with Tuesdays shutout in Calgary.
Second half outlook: Niemi is better when hes getting a lot of work, and hell have plenty with the Sharks hectic schedule. The key will be to not overwork him before the playoffs as the club was forced to do last year, tiring him out for the playoffs.