Sharks -- Midseason Report Part 1

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Sharks -- Midseason Report Part 1

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.

RELATED: Sharks -- midseason statistical analysis

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.

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.