There wasn’t a lot expected from the San Jose Sharks’ defensive corps before the season.
We didn’t know if Erik Karlsson could stay healthy or what Marc-Edouard Vlasic had left in the tank. We didn’t know what free agent signing Matt Benning or forgotten Radim Simek would bring to the table.
But all in all, the Sharks’ blueline has been a pleasant surprise this season.
Among other things, at least through half the season, Karlsson has turned back the clock with a Norris Trophy-worthy campaign, Vlasic is back to playing credible defensive minutes, and Benning has been a revelation.
Underscoring all this, San Jose is 14th in the NHL, according to SPORTLOGiQ, in Quality Chances For in All Situations, and 17th in Quality Chances Against. They are ninth in Inner Slot Shots Against.
This defense isn’t the 2007 Anaheim Ducks, but they aren’t the potential disaster area that some of us – myself included – thought possible in September.
Through 41 games, here’s a striking stat – there are a couple surprises in here too – for each San Jose Sharks defenseman, in order of playing time. Stats are from SPORTLOGiQ, 5-on-5, unless otherwise indicated.
Striking Stat: Here’s no surprise.
Karlsson leads all defensemen – not just Sharks blueliners – with 4.79 Offense-Generating Plays Per 20.
Per SPORTLOGiQ, Offense-Generating Plays “are made up of all plays that lead to scoring chances. In other words, they’re plays that move the puck into high danger areas or situations, recovering pucks for your team, and putting high quality shot attempts on net.”
Here’s another category where Karlsson is a league leader: He paces all NHL defensemen with 4.77 Zone Exits Per 20. There isn’t another rearguard who carries the puck out of the zone with possession more.
Striking Stat: Ferraro perhaps hoped to contribute more to the Sharks offensively this season, but at two goals and four assists through 31 contests, that hasn’t quite come to fruition.
So it was surprising to see one area where Ferraro has flourished offensively: He’s second among San Jose blueliners, behind Karlsson, at 0.55 Offensive Zone Dekes Per 20. He’s 32nd among NHL defensemen in this category, and he and sixth-place Karlsson are the only Sharks rearguards in the top-100 in the league.
The young defenseman is trying some moves in the OZ, and they’re working.
Striking Stat: Naturally, Karlsson leads all NHL blueliners with 2.05 Assists Per 60 at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick. Next, of course, is 2021 Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox.
After Karlsson and Fox? Benning is third at 1.46 Assists.
He’s also tied for third with Gustav Forsling, behind Karlsson and Josh Morrissey, with 0.88 Primary Assists Per 60 at 5-on-5.
The 28-year-old is currently on a pace for what would be a career-high 36-point season, showing a lot more puck-moving acumen than expected all season.
Barabanov opens up the scoring for the Sharks 👏 pic.twitter.com/zilWTCbFLy
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 1, 2023
Striking Stat: The defensive defenseman has an active stick.
He’s second among Sharks defensemen with 4.34 Blocked Passes Per 20.
Striking Stat: Vlasic has paid back head coach David Quinn’s trust in him with a solid campaign.
He’s second among San Jose defensemen with 2 Puck Battle Wins Per 20.
Striking Stat: Harrington is second among Sharks defensemen with 1.64 Blocked Shots Per 20.
Striking Stat: Nobody on the Sharks gets after loose pucks like Simek.
His 26.53 Loose Puck Recoveries Per 20 is fourth among all NHL defensemen.
Here’s how all the San Jose Sharks defensemen rank in a variety of key defensive categories. All stats are from SPORTLOGiQ and are 5-on-5 and Per 20.
|Defenseman||Loose Puck Recoveries|
|Defenseman||Puck Battle Wins|
|Defenseman||DZ Denial Rate|
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