SAN JOSE – The Sharks have perhaps surprised some people that they have been in contention for a playoff spot during the first half of the season.
Now that they’ve put themselves in this position, the Sharks feel like they’re perfectly capable of finishing the job.
Although each team just behind them in the standings has several games in hand, the Sharks (21-17-2) enter the Western Conference on Wednesday as the second wild-card team and fourth in the Pacific Division. Through 40 games, they have already matched their victories from the previous season, despite distancing themselves from former leading scorer Evander Kane and being the NHL’s runaway leader in games played by rookies.
“It’s time to make some grass in our division and our conference because we have teams with the game in hand,” Sharks coach Bob Boffner said Monday morning. “Some teams are going down the wrong track and we’re struggling to stay where we are, but we just have to take care of our business.”
Here is a midseason report card, broken down by position.
Head of Class: Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture.
keeping up: Nick Bonino.
Improvements needed: Jasper Weatherby.
Incomplete Grade: Nick Merkle, Scott Ready.
Analysis: Hertl advances in time on the ice and faceoff, and is tied for the team lead with 20 goals. He is set to make a lot of money, whether in San Jose or elsewhere, for many years to come. Couture’s 30 points so far are just one point shy of his total from last season and it appears he has never been more comfortable as shark captain.
Bonino has only seven points from 38 games but his value has come on defense as only 35 percent of his starts have come in the offensive zone. Weatherby has had an up and down rookie season with seven points from 36 games and may be hitting a wall. Do the Sharks probably look for a seasoned depth center before the trade deadline if they want to make a playoff push?
The Sharks are ranked 10th in the NHL in team faceoff percentage (51.5).
The overall grade: B+.
Head of Class: Timo Maier, Alexander Barbanov.
keeping up: Rudolphs Balsers, Andrew Cogliano, Jeffrey Weil.
Improvements needed: Jonathan Dahlen, Noah Gregor, Jonah Gadjovich, Kevin LaBlanc, Len Pedersen.
Incomplete Grade: John Leonard, Jayden Halbgewachs, Adam Ruska.
Analysis: Meyer has so far been the Sharks’ MVP with 20 goals and a team-high 45 points in 40 games, a huge jump after scoring 31 points in 54 games last season. Berbanov has 20 points in 32 games on a $1 million contract. The Balcers missed 13 games with a lower-body injury, but remains a steady and reliable middle-six forward, and Cogliano’s leadership, work ethic, and credibility are a welcome addition to a team that has been decimated by many cheaters. role was to be played.
Dahlen started off fast but has just two assists in his last 12 games – not enough for a player to reach the top six minutes. He, Nieto and Gregor all need to add some offense if the Sharks are going to average more than their current 2.78 goals per game, which ranks 22nd in the NHL. LaBlanc had six points from 21 games and was in the doghouse last month before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. He is expected to return in March. Pedersen just doesn’t deserve enough attention.
The Sharks have many good two-way wingers, but beyond Meyer and Barbanov, other playoff-competing teams lack high-end skills.
The overall grade: B-
Head of Class: Brent Burns, Mario Ferraro, Eric Carlson.
keeping up: Jakob Magna, Ryan Merkle. Jake Middleton.
Improvements needed: Nicolas Meloche, Radim Simek, Marc-Edouard Vlasik.
Incomplete Grade: Sentry Hatakka, Artemi Niyazev.
Analysis: Burns went through an aggressive three-week dry spell two months ago. But he still leads all Sharks defensemen, and was 10th among all NHL Blueliners before Wednesday, with 27 points in 40 games and all San Jose skaters in average time on the ice (25:56). Ferraro has taken a leadership role this season and his absence was felt earlier this month when he descended into COVID protocol. No defense pair in the NHL spends as much time on the ice as Ferraro and Burns.
Carlsen has 26 points from 32 games, having already eclipsed his 22-point total from last season. Having better talent around him has helped, but his skating and playing ability has been more on display. He has also been a great help to defense partners Middleton and now Megana. Middleton filled the void after an injury to Nikolai Knyazov, an average of more than 18 minutes of ice time per game and a constant since Magna Middleton’s January 4 injury.
Overall, the Sharks have allowed an average of 3.00 goals in 40 games, down from 3.50 in 56 games last season.
Simek has shown signs of the player he was before his major knee surgery, but it has taken some time and he has been a healthy bruiser in recent games. Vlasik’s ice time has been further cut this season and he had a healthy scratch earlier this month. Not ideal for the third highest paid defender on the team. He has been effective at times, but more consistency is needed.
The overall grade: b.
top of the class: James Reimer.
Improvements needed: Edin Hill.
Incomplete Grade: Zach Sochenko.
Analysis: For the first two months of the season, Reimer was easily one of the best goalscorers in the NHL. Yes, it’s amazing what a quality goal can do for a team. He suffered a meltdown just after Christmas due to a lower body injury, but entered Wednesday with a 12-7-1 record and .918 saving percentage. Hill wasn’t consistent during the first two months, but he seems to have turned a corner with his recent game. Still occasionally drops soft targets, but even the .906 save percentage is better than what the Sharks got last season.
As of Wednesday morning, the Sharks’ team average (.903) and goal saves (.903) are ranked 18th and 19th in the NHL, respectively.
The overall grade: B-
Boffner has been given a better team to work with this season, but the Sharks remain the NHL leader in games played by rookies (206). Boffner and his staff deserve credit for helping them become a more complete player, implementing a system that reflects team personnel, and shopping toward a certain identity. For the most part, players have been placed in positions where they can be successful. This team works hard for each other and the coaching staff deserves congratulations for that. All told, the Sharks’ penalty kills have dropped a bit and the power play is below average. grade B).