Three games into the season, the San Jose Sharks have tried out three fourth-line centers: Joel Kellman, Patrick Marleau, and Fredrik Handemark.
Tonight, they’re trotting out a new third-line center, Dylan Gambrell, who’s making his season debut. The Noah Gregor experiment up the middle is over, at least for now.
Bob Boughner talked about his bottom-six woes this morning and what he needs from that group. Will he finally get what he wants tonight?
Also, Erik Karlsson shared his thoughts about where his game and health are at right now.
And in the SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game Stat of the Night, we discuss the Sharks and their odd-man rushes against problem.
SAN JOSE SHARKS (1-2-0)
Ryan Donato-Logan Couture-Kevin Labanc
Evander Kane-Tomas Hertl-Timo Meier
John Leonard-Dylan Gambrell-Stefan Noesen
Matt Nieto-Patrick Marleau-Marcus Sorensen
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Erik Karlsson
Mario Ferraro-Brent Burns
Nikolai Knyzhov-Radim Simek
Projected scratches: Noah Gregor, Fredrik Handemark, Jake Middleton
ST. LOUIS BLUES (2-1-0)
Zach Sanford-Ryan O’Reilly-David Perron
Jaden Schwartz-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou
Mike Hoffman-Robert Thomas-Tyler Bozak
Sammy Blais-Ivan Barbashev-Oskar Sundqvist
Torey Krug-Colton Parayko
Marco Scandella-Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn-Carl Gunnarsson
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is 6 PM PT at Enterprise Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, FOX Sports Midwest, or NHL.tv.
Let’s be honest, to a man, the San Jose Sharks were terrible at 5-on-5 last game. I’m not putting it on any one player, but you should expect changes after this performance:
Of biggest concern to Bob Boughner is his bottom-six, which has proven to be a revolving door so far. Boughner talked about what he wanted to see from Gambrell, but he was discussing his entire bottom-six:
“I want reliability. I want consistency. Out of all those lines.
“Know what you’re going to get when you get over the boards. Win your share of faceoffs.
“I want those lines to play fast. Spend time in the other team’s end. When you’re in that position and you’re a bottom-six forward, the key is you’re creating energy every time you jump off the bench. You have possession time. You’re making it hard on the other team.
“They’re matching up basically exactly how we want. O’Reilly against Cooch. Schenn against Hertl. For being the road team, that’s a great match-up for us.
“The third line and the fourth line have to hold their third and fourth in check, and be better than them at times.
“That’s what we’re looking for.”
That was an interesting point in regards to match-ups — Gregor saw a lot of St. Louis third-line pivot Robert Thomas on Monday — suggesting Craig Berube is going power vs. power.
San Jose’s power was obviously found wanting last contest, we’ll see what they’ve got tonight.
Speaking of power, the one thing that’s working for the San Jose Sharks is the power play. Why is it clicking?
“When guys get in those situations, it feels like we’re playing more freely than maybe we do 5-on-5, where we still overthink a little bit too much. Worry about what can and what can’t happen,” Karlsson offered.
Finally, Karlsson has faced a ton of criticism for his up-and-down play this season. But the blueliner appears to be confident that both his game and the Sharks’ will round into form:
“My body feels good. I feel like I’m I’m strong out there.
“My decisions without the puck have been feeling really good.
“I’m not too worried about my ability to create with the puck. That’s something, if that was going well and everything else was not, then I’d have to work really hard on certain things.
“For me, entering my 12th year, where my game is at after three games here, how I’m feeling, whether I’ve gotten the results that I want or not — is feeling good. I’m not too worried about where I’m at. I’m not worried about where we’re at as a team either. Even though the results have not transpired into what we would like them to be.”
President Biden used #SJSharks team plane during his campaign. Asked Boughner about being part of history: "[Stewardesses on the plane] said he didn't do a lot of relaxing on the plane. He worked from the time he got on to the time he got off." pic.twitter.com/wHdry3mMt9
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 20, 2021
SPORTLOGIQ PRE-GAME STAT OF THE NIGHT
“Before the coaching change, we were [29th] in the league giving up odd-man rushes,” Boughner said in April about the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks. “You can say whatever you want about the goaltending. In the second half of the season, after we switched things around, we were [10th] in odd-man rushes against.”
So how’s that going?
Caveat: Three games is a tiny sample size. But per SPORTLOGiQ, the Sharks are 30th in the NHL at 8.08 Even Strength Odd Man Rushes Against. And it’s not just because of one bad game, they were 24th after the Arizona series. For more context, last year’s median for this category was 3.63 ES Odd Man Rushes Against, while the Islanders led the league at 2.74.
Now San Jose isn’t going to give up eight odd-man rushes a game for the rest of the year. But there’s obviously a lot to work on here. Boughner counted the ways yesterday:
“Most of the offense that we’re giving to other teams are starting from 200 feet away from our net.
“Whether that’s throwing the puck away in the o-zone, bad puck decision at the blueline and a turnover, bad pinch or nobody covering up for a d-pinching. Sometimes it’s a F3, third forward high, he’s supposed to be in a soft lock position, he dives in.
“We’re giving out outnumbered rushes against due to our actions.
“That goes with line changes and shift lengths.
“All of it is very, very correctable.”
We’ll see if the Sharks can begin to set things right tonight.
Really appreciate the level of explanation that Boughner gives, often unprompted. Here, he's talking about how #SJSharks in-zone D coverage was actually pretty good, problem was rush defense: "We analyze chances against, not so much the number, but where they're coming from." pic.twitter.com/VGOk3WoOYP
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 19, 2021
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