There’s been a lot of talk this year about the San Jose Sharks and how (and if) they’re standing up for each other.
That seems like what Brent Burns did for Joachim Blichfeld – at least post-game.
Late in an eventual 4-0 loss, Blichfeld was given a match penalty for this head shot on Nathan MacKinnon.
Blichfeld match penalty. pic.twitter.com/3U8SLMV2Tm
— Brian Truong (@_BrianTruong) March 4, 2021
I already offered my opinion of the hit in my Game Notes.
Naturally, the press corps asked for Blichfeld post-game. For sure, it was a harsh spotlight to put a 22-year-old rookie playing just his fourth career NHL game under. But he had sent one of the true superstars of this league into the locker room.
However, instead of Blichfeld, we got Burns. And while we don’t know for sure if Burns jumped on Zoom to take the heat for the rookie, it sure felt like it.
For his part, Burns offered a strident defense of his young teammate, and to a degree, for the play itself. This was the alternate captain’s full, passionate response to whether or not Blichfeld should take this as a learning moment for when to back off on the ice:
“Back off, why? You don’t want to see anybody get hurt. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody.
“I haven’t seen it [again].
“But you got one of the best players in the world, he skates, skates hard. I know he’s not trying to hurt him.
“It’s got to get looked at carefully, you can’t just say it’s a tough lesson, he’s gonna get in trouble for it. I don’t know. Hopefully they take a good look at it, see the play, see it developed?
“It’s pretty hard when you look at something in 100 frames per second. You have a guy, he skates so powerfully and he’s low. It’s hard. You put the player in a hard spot, because then you say, boy, he’s not finishing his checks. What do you want them to do then? It’s hard.
“There’s a lot of things that can change. You can change angles, you can change stuff, but you got one of the best players in the world, you’re trying to take away time and space, and sometimes, you got to be physical.
“Obviously, we got to be careful with it. You got to take care of players. I know Blichy’s not trying to hurt anybody there. But he’s got to play a hard game to be successful, to get established for himself.
“I haven’t seen it. I’m not saying anything. I haven’t seen it. They got to take a good hard look at it. Shouldn’t be an automatic thing. You got to look and see angles, you got to see contact of it.
“I was on the ice and it didn’t look like he smashed the head. Now in saying that, it’s a fast play. You got to take care of guys. But in saying that, you got to be careful because there’s guys that are trying to establish themselves and then they have to play a physical game and you can’t just say well, he should stick check that guy. Because how many times have you seen a highlight when somebody tries to stick check MacKinnon and he embarrasses them? You know? It’s a hard spot.
“Hopefully, they just take a good long hard look at it. See what guys were thinking on the play? I’ve been in that spot before. It’s tough. Because it’s easy to say, well, I should just stick check him or not hit him there. Then what’s gonna happen to [Blichfeld], you know? It’s a hard place. I don’t know.”
Sharks Need a Hero
This feels like it’ll be a constant theme this year, so much so, the San Jose Sharks should hire Bonnie Tyler to sing the song during TV timeouts.
San Jose has its share of quality players, and despite their record, I do think they’re better than last year’s third-worst in the NHL squad.
But down 1-0 to enter the final frame, they needed somebody, anybody to reverse their fortunes:
Avs haven't dominated game, but they've controlled it. #SJSharks need a difference-maker in the 3rd, will anybody step up?
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) March 4, 2021
Suffice to say, they didn’t get it. And that’s been the case too often this season. That includes Karlsson, who I thought was just decent after a turn-back-the-clock effort on Monday.
Underscoring all this? Per SPORTLOGiQ, the Sharks had just six Slot Shots on Net and two Scoring Chances Off the Rush in All Situations. Dylan Gambrell had half of the slot shots and both rush opportunities. Essentially, Gambrell enjoyed the lionshare of San Jose’s best chances to score.
And no offense to Gambrell, who has fashioned himself into a legitimate NHL centerman after flirting with the waiver wire, but he’s not the guy who you want with the puck on his stick at a must-score moment.
Is Mario Ferraro a legitimate top-pairing defenseman? I would’ve laughed if you suggested that to me during training camp – and I like Ferraro – but he’s making a case.
He’s 35th among all NHL defensemen in Time on Ice Per Game. And the 22-year-old is probably just getting better. There are just 10 23-or-under blueliners with higher average usage than Ferraro: Ivan Provorov, Thomas Chabot, Adam Fox, Cale Makar, Zach Werenski, Charlie McAvoy, Filip Hronek, Miro Heiskanen, John Marino, and Jakob Chychrun.
And it’s not just a mediocre team forcing Ferraro into higher-leverage minutes. It bears deeper examination, but he appears to be more than holding his own against the MacKinnons of the world.
Whatever’s coming for the San Jose Sharks, re-tool or re-build, Ferraro is shaping up to be a franchise centerpiece.
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