GLENDALE, Ariz. — San Jose Sharks hockey is back!
And San Jose Hockey Now doesn’t know what to do with itself.
I mean it (insert laughing emoji) — there are so many different ways to approach a gameday. But the one thing that I don’t want to do is bore you by giving you something you can get anywhere else. That’s never going to happen here, as long as I can help it!
So we’re going to try these game previews for now, see how it goes. You’re get the lines, the time, all that here — but what will you get that’s fresh?
We’ll have some interesting quotes from Bob Boughner about the meritocracy of the training camp — and big news! — we’re getting full pre-game and post-game reports from industry leader SPORTLOGiQ. So scroll down for Boogie and the SPORTLOGiQ Pre-game Stat of the Night!
San Jose Sharks
J O H N L E O N A R D S Z N I S H E R E pic.twitter.com/q4BzdE8s8V
— Locked on John Leonard SZN (@LockedOnSharks) January 14, 2021
Scratches: Jake Middleton, Dylan Gambrell, Stefan Noesen
Caggiula – Dvorak – Kessel
Hayton – Schmaltz – Garland
Keller – Brassard – Pitlick
Crouse – Larsson – Fischer
Ekman-Larsson – Demers
Chychrun – Goligoski
Oesterle – Hjalmarsson
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 6 PM PT at Gila River Arena. Watch it on Fox Sports Arizona and NBC Sports Bay Area or NHL.tv.
One of the many interesting San Jose Sharks subplots heading into this shortened season was how would Bob Boughner approach his taxi squad?
Would he emphasize NHL experience — sensible if you need a guy to suddenly fill in for a game or two? Would he emphasize prospect development — sensible maybe because you want kids like Ryan Merkley or Sasha Chmelevski to play and practice as much as possible? Or would it be more of a meritocracy — best training camp for a spot on the taxi squad?
It appears that Boughner has chosen a meritocracy when choosing Chmelevski, Jeffrey Viel, Fredrik Handemark, Brinson Pasichnuk, and Alexei Melnichuk for tonight’s taxi squad.
“Absolutely. I said night one, when I talked to the guys at training camp, there’s heavy competition,” Boughner said. “Even when I was an assistant coach here years back, we made that run to the Stanley Cup Final, I believe this was the camp where we had the most competition at every position. Some of our young guys really impressed.
“Those taxi squad guys, the message to them, they need to be ready.”
So when will we see a Chmelevski or a Pasichnuk in the NHL? Making it to the taxi squad suggests it’ll be soon.
Another example of this meritocracy? Boughner opting to pair rookies Nikolai Knyzhov and Nicolas Meloche, three combined NHL games between them, over the more experienced Middleton tonight.
John Leonard will make his NHL debut: His family can't be here, but they'll be watching of course. He shared the news with all of them in a group call
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 14, 2021
It was Facetime, to be exact!
SPORTLOGiQ Pre-game Stat of the Night
One point of emphasis during the pre-season?
Work faster on the power play.
“We’re going to generate more speed off our entries. And look to attack off our entries. If we’re guilty of anything, we’re a little static,” Boughner said in camp. “When we gained the zone, we had the mind-set of pulling up, let’s get to our spot, let’s set up.”
Gone, apparently, are the days of gaining the zone of the pwer play, then waiting for Joe Thornton and Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski to get to their spots.
“A couple of things that are going to be different: You’re going to see the way that we’re breaking out, how we’re going to generate more speed underneath. We’re going to look to take pucks to the net and attack right away. Worry about possession before position,” Boughner added. “Guys might be out of their regular spots on the power play, but it doesn’t matter right now. We want to get possession, attack — and then when we get the chance, we’ll spread out to our spots.”
Kevin Labanc agreed: “Boston is one of the best scoring off the rush on the power play. We kind of want to implement their game to ours. Get that speed coming into the zone.
“It’s hard for the PK unit to set up if we’re coming in with speed. If you can score on the rush, why not? Instead of stopping, setting up, then the PK sets up.”
Last year, per SPORTLOGiQ, the San Jose Sharks finished 28th in the league in Power Play Controlled Entry Success. Their 61.0 percent was far behind top-ranked Toronto’s 72.3.
A lot of that burden of gaining the zone with control will fall, naturally, on Erik Karlsson’s shoulders — or shall I say his surgically repaired groin and ankle?
“[Erik Karlsson’s] breaking us in well,” Labanc said. “We’re all on the same page.”
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.