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Quick Thoughts: Identity Found, Meier’s Mistake

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Credit: NBCS Bay Area

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Stop the presses: The San Jose Sharks have received four straight above-average goaltending performances.

I’m being sarcastic, but it’s also just the fourth time in the regular season, per Evolving Hockey’s Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) metric, that Sharks goaltenders have achieved this feat since October 2018.

Last night, Devan Dubnyk posted a +2.07 GSAx, on the heels of Martin Jones’s +1.29 on Feb. 13, and Dubnyk’s +2.97 on Feb. 12 and +0.4 on Feb. 8.

“The last four games, our goaltenders have been very, very good,” Logan Couture said. “They’ve given us a chance in every game. They make game-changing saves. They were a big reason why we were able to win those games in Anaheim.”

Jones and Aaron Dell also enjoyed five-game positive GSAx streaks from Feb. 2, 2019 to Feb. 11, 2019 and Dec. 22, 2019 to Jan. 2, 2020. They had a four-game streak from Mar. 3, 2019 to Mar. 11, 2019.

Granted, GSAx is not the final word in goaltending analysis, but in this case, it jibes with the eye test: Of course, San Jose has been a stranger to consistent goaltending since the beginning of the 2018-19 season.

Can Dubnyk keep it up? Recent San Jose Sharks’ goaltending history suggests the wheels are about to come off. But maybe the new guy will have something to say about that.

Identity Found

What’s the San Jose Sharks’ identity? We’ve found one piece of it.

“We’re a good forecheck team. When we put pucks in deep, we usually get them back. We’re running good routes,” Bob Boughner offered. “I think we’re playing heavier below the tops of the circles on pucks. We’ve got some more grind to our game.”

That’s legitimate: Per SPORTLOGiQ, the Sharks are eighth in the NHL in Even Strength Shot Attempts from the Slot, Off the Forecheck – they earn 3.2 Per 60 (Carolina leads at 4.14). They’re 10th in ES% Offensive Zone Dump-Ins Recovered – they recover 37.6 of their dump-ins (Toronto leads at 40.8).

“It feels good. It feels good night in, night out right now,” Couture said of the San Jose forecheck, which is led by his line with Evander Kane and Kevin Labanc. “We were stubborn for long periods of the season, stubborn to chip the puck in and go get it. Sometimes, you don’t have a play to make, you can’t go tape-to-tape through the neutral zone and find a guy with speed. Sometimes, you got to chip it in and work to get it.”

Making Up for Your Mistake

Bob Boughner kept playing Timo Meier despite the winger’s major coverage error – and was rewarded.

On the Mark Stone goal, Boughner noted: “Our forward coming back overpursued. Should’ve simply latched on to the high guy [Stone]…that’s not realizing what’s going on around you.”

That was Meier. But it was also Meier who broke Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout spell with a spectacular goal off a just-as-good Brent Burns pass. And it was also Meier who led the San Jose Sharks with seven shot attempts last night.

The obvious mistakes are still there with Meier, but so’s the elite talent. He’s a guy you keep putting out there and with 11 points in his last eight games, he seems to have found his game.

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zachg

Truly incredible that there’s only been four instances in three seasons where the Sharks have received above-average goaltending in four consecutive games. That sums it up.

Out of curiosity, Sheng, I presume Jones had a stretch of a bunch of games in the 2019 playoff run where he also was above-average or better by GSAx? It’d just be even funnier if that’s one of the few times it’s happened.

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