Is Braun taking minutes from Burns?

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Is Braun taking minutes from Burns?

SAN JOSE During the majority of Thursday nights win over the Minnesota Wild, the Sharks used a couple of new defense pairs.

Brent Burns skated with Colin White, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic was paired with Justin Braun. A quick look at the scoresheet says that the new pairs allowed Sharks coach Todd McLellan to balance out his minutes among the six blueliners, as they all played between 13:36 (White) and 22:08 (Vlasic) if you dont include time on the power play.

Heres the complete time on ice breakdown among the six against the Wild, again, taking out power play time.

Douglas Murray: 19:54
Colin White: 13:36
Dan Boyle: 18:07
Marc-Edourard Vlasic: 22:08
Justin Braun: 16:02
Brent Burns: 15:27

The end result, of course, was a good one. The Sharks held the Wild to just one goal and 22 shots, although Minnesota does score the second fewest goals-per-game in the NHL.

McLellan had been mixing things up a bit for portions of the win against Los Angeles on Monday, and explained his reasoning behind it.

We tinkered with it a few games ago, said the coach. Whitey and Brent Burns are both very big men and both veteran guys who can play against anybody, whether its a grinding line or offensive line. Vlasic and Braun continue to play real well. We like that.

We know were not going to finish the year with pairs that are stuck together. Were going to have to break them up. They do get stale. Right now, we like what we see.

One interesting take from that time-on-ice breakdown is that Burns and White saw less ice than their teammates during even-strength and shorthanded situations. Brauns strong play since he was recalled early in the season from Worcester has something to do with that.

In fact, Burns saw a season-low in ice time with 19:34 total - three minutes below his season average. Braun's ice time against Minnesota, on the other hand, was 19:23, just two seconds off his season high set the previous game vs. Los Angeles and two-and-a-half minutes above his average.

Now, that's not to say that Braun is cutting into anyone's ice time. Burns, of course, gets lots of time on the power play. It does mean that Braun is allowing the minutes to be more balanced out among the six defensemen in general.

McLellan gave a glowing review of the 24-year old after Thursdays morning skate.

We had hoped that some of those players (recalled from Worcester) could come in and steal jobs and take jobs away, and Brauny has been one of them. Hes forced some players out of the lineup because of his good play, and theres absolutely nothing wrong with that in my mind. Its a great thing to have in your organization and very healthy. His minutes have gone up because hes earned them. Hes a hell of a good young d-man.

Theres also a distinct difference between last years version of Braun and the one everyone is seeing now.

He feels like he fits in here now and should be playing. Last year he hoped he should play, said McLellan. Hes very confident and understands the league more. He understands his opponent a lot more and has played against a lot of these players and understands their tendencies. And, hes a lot more familiar with what were doing as a team and system-wise.

I feel very good about moving him all over the place.

Sharks Jones, Tierney find more success in Vancouver in 4-1 win

Sharks Jones, Tierney find more success in Vancouver in 4-1 win

VANCOUVER – One of the more appealing NHL road cities, Vancouver dazzles with its beautiful mountain scenery and walkable downtown avenues.

The Sharks undoubtedly relish those aspects of their trips to British Columbia, but more importantly they’ve enjoyed them on a professional basis, too. San Jose won its 10th straight game at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1, kicking off the final push to the playoffs with a victory coming out of the bye week.

“I think we definitely got better as the game went on, and that’s what you’re looking for,” said Mikkel Boedker, who was one of four Sharks’ goal scorers. “We came out with the win.”

Two Sharks in particular have enjoyed their recent excursions into Vancouver. 

Martin Jones was the best player on the ice, making 35 saves in his hometown. He was relied upon early as the Sharks predictably struggled to get their legs underneath them in what was their first game since last Sunday.

Jones made an impressive stop on Loui Eriksson in the first period, and in the second he stopped Jannik Hansen from point blank range with the Sharks holding a 1-0 lead. Later in the second, it was saves on Alex Edler and Hansen again that preserved San Jose’s 2-1 lead at the intermission. Vancouver was outshooting the Sharks 30-16 after 40 minutes, but trailed.

The Sharks rewarded their goalie with scores by Boedker and Logan Couture on the power play to make the final few minutes of the third period relatively easy.

“When [Jones] plays like that it gives us confidence, and we’ve just got to stick with it and keep creating chances, and we did that tonight,” said Boedker, who snapped a 19-game goal drought.

“[Jones] was our best player tonight,” coach Pete DeBoer said.

Jones improved to a perfect 4-0 in Vancouver, all in a San Jose sweater, with a 1.25 goals-against average and .959 save percentage. He spent the bye week in the area, and had several supporters in the stands.

“It’s always fun playing in front of friends and family,” Jones said. “Happy to get the win here.”

Chris Tierney is another player who seems to thrive in Vancouver. He notched a pair of assists and centered the team's most effective line, after getting his first career two-goal game here earlier this month.

His new line, featuring wingers Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward, opened the scoring in the second period, with Hertl finishing off a pass from Tierney after Ward’s breakaway attempt crept just wide of the net. Later, Tierney got a secondary assist on Patrick Marleau’s second period goal, restoring the Sharks' lead at 2-1.

“They did a good job. I thought some of those guys had our better legs early,” DeBoer said of his third line. “It took some of our veteran guys a little longer to get into it.”

Tierney, who was scoreless in eight straight games since his last time at Rogers Arena on Feb. 2, said: “I thought we generated some good chances. I think we can get better, too. We kind of talked on the bench throughout the game of what we can kind of do to improve and where each other is going to be on the ice, but it felt good playing with those guys. It’s easy to create offense with them.”

In seven career games in Vancouver, Tierney has four goals and three assists for seven points.

“Something about the Vancouver air, or Canadian air,” he said. “I always feel good when I play here.”

After dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to Boston in their final game before the break, the Sharks had a five-point lead over the rest of the division headed into a week off. Saturday’s win pushes the lead back up to five points again on Anaheim and Edmonton, and they now have games in hand on both of those teams, too.

It all adds up to a good start in what is the final stretch before the postseason, and a quest for a division title. Overall, the Sharks are 3-0-3 in their last six games, and have just one regulation loss in their last 11 (5-1-5).

“It’s huge, that’s what you play the regular season for,” said Boedker, when asked about the Sharks padding their lead. “You keep trying to gain as many points as you can, and lately we’ve had some overtime losses, but we keep gaining points.”

Instant Replay: Sharks blow past Canucks in first game back from break

Instant Replay: Sharks blow past Canucks in first game back from break

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER – Playing for the first time since their bye week, the Sharks scored two goals in each of the final two periods to down the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1.

San Jose improved to 11-2-5 in its last 18 games, and increased its lead in the Pacific Division to five points over Anaheim and Edmonton.

After a lackluster first period without much action, the Sharks opened the scoring in the second.

Joel Ward took advantage of some confusion at the Vancouver bench, plowing ahead untouched for a breakaway. His attempt squirted just wide, but Chris Tierney pushed the loose puck to the front of the net where Tomas Hertl pounded it home at 3:31.

Vancouver tied it later. Brent Burns’ defensive zone turnover resulted in Daniel Sedin buzzing in a wrist shot short side on Martin Jones at 12:02.

The Canucks had a chance to take the lead on the power play later, after Micheal Haley jumped Joseph Labate for hammering Melker Karlsson along the wall. Bo Horvat was staring at an empty net, but fired the puck high with four minutes to go in the middle frame.

That allowed the Sharks to reclaim the lead on Patrick Marleau’s 22nd goal. The forward was set up beautifully by David Schlemko, who passed the puck through the seam, confusing Ryan Miller and allowing Marleau to tuck it in at 19:04.

Jones, who was outstanding for the duration of the game, made a key stop on Alex Edler’s wrist shot from the top of the circle with 20 seconds to go, keeping it a 2-1 San Jose advantage after two.

Mikkel Boedker added to the Sharks’ lead at 11:31, whooshing a wrist shot past Miller on two-on-one with Logan Couture. The goal, Boedker’s first in 20 games, was unassisted after defenseman Ben Hutton gave the puck away to the San Jose winger.

Couture capped the scoring with a power play goal, picking the top corner from the faceoff dot at 14:20.

Karlsson returned to start the third period. Early in the third, Labate answered the bell and fought Brenden Dillon, with Dillon seemingly landing more punches.

Vancouver was without five players due to a mumps outbreak in their dressing room, while defenseman Luca Sbisa did not finish the game due to the stomach flu.

The Sharks won their 10th straight game in Vancouver, including both this season, increasing what was already the longest winning streak ever by a Canucks home opponent. The road team has won 15 in a row, extending an NHL record.

Special teams

The Sharks capitalized on their only advantage of the evening, scoring just their second power play goal in the last five games (2-for-13).

Vancouver finished 0-for-2 on the power play, with both of its advantages in the second period. The Sharks are 10-for-10 on the PK over the last six games.

In goal

Jones, a North Vancouver native, improved to 4-0 in his career at Rogers Arena with 35 saves. He’s 29-15-6 on the season, starting 51 of the Sharks’ 61 games.

Miller fell to 16-18-3 on the season, allowing four goals on 26 shots. He’s 10-6-0 in his long career against San Jose.

Lineup

The Sharks were carrying just 12 healthy forwards, as Joonas Donskoi did not make the trip after coming down with the flu. Donskoi, who has been out since Jan. 24 after suffering an upper body injury, is close to a return.

Barclay Goodrow played in his second game of the season, skating on the fourth line.

Vancouver defenseman Evan McEnany was making his NHL debut, while Labate was playing in just his fourth career game.

Up next

The Sharks return home to host the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and see the Canucks again on Thursday at SAP Center.

Saturday’s game in Vancouver kicked off a stretch of 22 games over 43 days before the playoffs.