Welcome guest writer Kat Pitre! Kat currently covers the San Jose Sharks at Fear the Fin and hosts the “This Is Hockey Culture” podcast.
“I think he’s doing a lot of great things defensively. And he had seven shots on net last night. That’s one of the reasons that we got to overtime.”
For head coach Bob Boughner, Noah Gregor’s game is exactly where it should be now that he’s seemingly made a regular place for himself on the San Jose Sharks roster. With so many players snake-bit for goals and Noah Gregor among them, playing both sides of the puck becomes essential. Even if a winger like Gregor is struggling to put the puck in the back of the net, he can still contribute defensively.
Gregor has seen the positive changes in his defensive game himself, and for the team as a whole: “I think we’ve done a pretty good job at limiting their chances and spending time in the offensive zone.”
As for what has improved in Gregor’s game since his return to San Jose Sharks’ regular lineup this season, Boughner had a lot to offer: “His details are better defensively. But I also think in [the] offensive zone, he’s holding on to more pucks…If he was guilty of anything last year, being a young guy, is just not stopping at the net, and not driving the net, and passing up on shots”.
Gregor’s speed on the ice is instantly noticeable, and being able to use his speed effectively is a focal point of his improved game, especially when driving straight to the net. “I think that’s one of the things about using my speed in different areas, and just taking the puck from the wall…stripping the player and then making a play out of it that way. I think I’ve improved on that,” Gregor said.
Gregor’s performance during camp was less than stellar, and after a 2020/21 season spent fluctuating between the San Jose Barracuda and San Jose Sharks, it was clear that he needed more experience, more opportunities to focus on the minute details of his game, and a sense of maturity on the ice that can only come from playing more games at a higher level.
For Gregor, returning to the Sharks for good after getting sent down during training camp depended upon solidifying his identity on the ice as an individual player: “I think it was just finding my game again. I don’t think I had the best camp, I didn’t really do one thing where I stood out too much.” But, after a strong start to the season with the Barracuda (four goals and eight assists in eight games), the small changes in his game are what’s standing out for Boughner.
“He’s rolling out of the corner with some speed and he’s taking pucks to the net more…You’d be worried if he wasn’t getting chances and he was on the outside all the time, but he’s on the inside, he’s getting chances and he’s just got to keep with it.”
The San Jose Sharks’ last game saw a return of the Brent Burns/Erik Karlsson pairing on the powerplay, and while the power play was a sore point for the Sharks’ loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins (three power plays, all unsuccessful), coaching is going to continue to give it another shot.
It’s less about what might be different about Burns and Karlsson this go around, and more about how the Sharks as a whole need some sort of change to hopefully prompt offensive production.
“One of the things when you’re not scoring [is that] you’re looking for different ways to tweak and change things…When things aren’t working, or you’re looking for answers, you get your five best players out there, and you try and give them a plan to have success,” said Boughner.
And, sometimes throwing a new look at the opposing team can generate positive changes, along with switching the positioning of Karlsson and Burns on the power play (with Burns up top last night); “I really liked the look of that last night…We generated four high-end chances [with them].”
But that doesn’t mean that putting your top-line defensemen out on the ice together is guaranteed to succeed; there needs to be an adjustment to both players’ games to make the pairing work, especially since both are puck-dominant defensemen. According to Boughner, Burns is more comfortable playing up top, while Karlsson is more flexible, and can adapt to either the flank or top position. And, “- it’s not a struggle between the two of them [of] who gets the puck more or what position they play.”.
So what did Burns and Karlsson do well?
“I liked the way Karly [Erik Karlsson] was in traffic and getting it back to Burnzie [Brent Burns]…Burnzie had many, many opportunities to shoot the puck from the middle [of] the ice with net-front presence, and that’s what we’re looking for in our powerplay.”
San Jose Sharks (20-17-2)
Just as Burns and Karlsson are likely to get another look at the power play, it’s unlikely that any sweeping changes to the line-up will take place against the Los Angeles Kings. This is how the Sharks lined up in their last game, we’ll see how they line up on Monday afternoon a couple of hours before puck drop.
James Reimer makes his return!
Get caught up on our crossover preview with @LockedOnLAKings here.
— The Content Boyz (@LockedOnSharks) January 17, 2022
📍: Detroit, MI pic.twitter.com/ALFyXsykqU
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 3, 2022
Los Angeles Kings (20-13-5)
For the Los Angeles Kings, who have won four out of their last six games and are sitting at second in the Pacific Division, this is how their lines looked yesterday at practice, per Zach Dooley:
Iafallo – Kopitar – Fagemo
Moore – Danault – Arvidsson
Turcotte – Kupari – Brown
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Maatta – Roy
Bjornfot – Durzi
Where to Watch
Puck drop between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks is at 1:00 PM PT at the SAP Center. Watch it live on ESPN+, BSW, and NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.
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