Sharks -- All-Star break comparison: 2012 vs. 2011

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Sharks -- All-Star break comparison: 2012 vs. 2011

At the NHL All-Star break last season, the Sharks had played 50 games, sported a record of 25-19-6 for 56 points, sat in fourth place in the Pacific Division, and were tied for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.

This year, the Sharks enter the All-Star break having played 47 games, boast a record of 27-14-6 for 60 points, lead the Pacific Division, and sit in third place.

What's different about this year? Let's take a deeper look at the stats.
Amazingly enough, through 50 contests a season ago the Sharks averaged both 2.72 goals per game, and 2.72 goals allowed per game. Those figures ranked 15th and 18th in the NHL, respectively.

This year the Sharks' scoring output has slipped marginally to 2.66 goals per game, which is good for 13th among the 30 teams.

If the Sharks have four more points at the All-Star break this year compared to last year, and have played three fewer games, it must mean that Antti Niemi and the defense have improved, right?

Ding ding ding.

The Sharks are currently sixth in the NHL, allowing just 2.28 goals per game.

In 37 starts, Niemi is 21-10-5 (he was pulled early once) with a 2.30 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage.

Last season, he didn't fare so well before the All-Star break, compiling a 13-3-3 record, with a 2.69 goals against average, and a .912 save percentage in just 29 games (Remember -- the season prior Niemi helped lead the Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and aside from the fact was learning a new system in San Jose, he was probably a little worn out with the title run extending into June).

Niemi's backup, Thomas Greiss, has arguably been even better. In 11 games, he is 6-4-1 with a 1.98 goals against average, and a .927 save percentage.

It's no wonder the Sharks reportedly placed Antero Niittymaki on waivers earlier today.

But what about the key guys who score the goals and play defense?

- Joe Thornton: 8 goals, 30 assists, 38 points (44)
- Patrick Marleau: 17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points (36)
- Logan Couture: 21 goals, 15 assists, 36 points, All-Star (33)
- Joe Pavelski: 17 goals, 17 assists, 34 points (31)
- Dan Boyle: 4 goals, 25 assists, 29 points (32)
- Ryane Clowe: 9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points (38)
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points (10)
- Brent Burns: 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points (31 -- with Minnesota)
- Michal Handzus: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points (19)
- Jamie McGinn: 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points (6 points)
- Martin Havlat: 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points, missed 21 games (44 -- with Minnesota)
(points at All-Star break last season)

From a pure numbers standpoint, the Sharks' two big acquisitions in the offseason, Burns and Havlat, have clearly underperformed.

Ryane Clowe is also well below his scoring pace from a season ago, but has missed the past five games with a facial fracture.

Dan Boyle is pretty much status quo, and something tells me his numbers would be better had he not been using sticks that were an inch longer than last year's for the first 24 games of the season, or if he hadn't been playing on a broken foot the first 15-20 games.

Patrick Marleau is ahead of last year's numbers, as is Joe Pavelski. Joe Thornton and Michal Handzus are slightly below, but Jamie McGinn and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have improved significantly.

Then there's Logan Couture. The Calder Trophy runner-up from a season ago leads the Sharks with 21 goals and is the lone member who will not use the All-Star "break" as its name insinuates. Instead, he will be in Ottawa making his first All-Star appearance.

The Sharks are in a good position right now. Their first four games following the break are against teams who would not be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

However, after the Blackhawks come to town on Feb. 10, the Sharks embark on a nine-game road trip spanning 14 days.

We will know a lot about this team on Feb. 26.

But for now, get your rest guys. You're going to need it.

Except you, Logan.

Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at CSNBayArea.com. You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

Programming note – Sharks-Bruins coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 35-18-6, 76 points, 1st Pacific Division
Bruins: 29-23-6, 64 points, 4th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will be playing their second of a back-to-back, and final game before the bye week, in a rare matinee start time at SAP Center against Boston. Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona was just San Jose’s second in its last seven games, although they have points in six of those (2-1-4). San Jose is 4-2-4 since reeling off six straight wins from Jan. 16 – 24, and has a four-point lead on Edmonton for first place in the Pacific Division.

***Boston will be playing for the first time since its bye week, which may not have come at a good time. The Bruins reeled off three straight wins after changing coaches from Claude Julien to interim Bruce Cassidy, the first of which came against the Sharks at TD Garden on Feb. 9. The Bruins haven’t played since last Sunday, a 4-0 home win over Montreal.

***Joe Thornton brings a five-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 4a). He sits two assists shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1000 assists.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Melker Karlsson. The fourth line winger was the star of last night’s game in Arizona, posting one goal and two assists, and getting credit for the game-winning goal. Karlsson, second on the Sharks in shorthanded time on ice per game, has two goals and three points in three career games against the Bruins.

Bruins: Patrice Bergeron. The three-time Selke Trophy winner posted four points (1g, 3a) against the Sharks in Boston 10 days ago, and is third on the team in scoring with 33 points (14g, 19a). The 31-year-old is just one assist shy of 400 for his career, and is eighth on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Nikolay Goldobin – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes
Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pasternak
Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Bruins: Austin Czarnik (lower body) is out.

QUOTEABLE

“He’s having an MVP season. He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.” – Pete DeBoer on Brent Burns after Saturday’s Sharks win in Arizona, in which Burns had two goals

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

For the first time in five tries this season the Sharks managed to secure a regulation win over the last place Coyotes, 4-1 at Gila River Arena on Saturday. They keep their four-point lead over Edmonton, and are assured of going into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are our three takeaways from the win…

1 – Burns turns the tide…again

For the second time in a week, Brent Burns changed the momentum of a game with his deadly wrist shot. The Sharks were on their heels early – Arizona had a 16-9 shot advantage in the first period, perhaps jolted be a pregame ceremony – but Burns’ shot through traffic staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead and they were on their way.

“We kind of weathered their storm early,” Joe Pavelski told reporters. “There was a lot of energy in the building.”

It was similar to a game in New Jersey last Sunday, when Burns had a pair of second period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit and putting his team on the track to victory.

According to Elias, Burns – who added a third period power play goal, too – is the first defenseman to score 18 goals on the road since Paul Coffey’s 22 in 1983-84. His 26 goals equal his total from last season, tying his franchise record.

“He’s having an MVP season,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

Burns remains in third in the league in scoring with 63 points, four points behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.

2 – Dell gets the job done…again

Getting his second start in a week, Aaron Dell made a new season high (and, thus, career high) with 36 saves. His best stop was early in the second period on Radim Vrbata, when he managed to snag a pin-balling puck from crossing the line, keeping the Sharks ahead 2-0. Had that one trickled over, the Coyotes might have been able to seize the momentum.

“I think I had it the whole time,” Dell told reporters. “I kind of saw it for a second and then when I turned back I was able to find it and scoop it underneath me.”

DeBoer said: “He’s been good every time we’ve put him in there.”

Dell, whose goals-against average is down to 1.95, outplayed Sharks nemesis Mike Smith, who had stopped 121 of 127 San Jose shots in three games this season.

“We got to Smitty in the first period, which was great,” Pavelski said. “We kind of know what he’s done to us the past few games, stopping a lot of pucks. … That was a big key for us.”

3 – Fourth line magic

Through two periods, the Sharks’ top two lines had generated a total of three shots on goal – one each from Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.

Fortunately for the big guys, the fourth line was there to pick up the slack. Melker Karlsson posted three points (1g, 2a), Micheal Haley had one goal and one assist, and the fourth line generated all three of San Jose’s goals through 40 minutes.

One goal from the fourth line is a bonus. Three is virtually unheard of. 

“They showed up and played the right way,” DeBoer said. “Right from the drop of the puck they put pucks behind the other teams defense, they had good support, they created a lot of chances, and got rewarded for it. I think Dell and them were the difference in the game early through the first half, until we got going a little bit.”