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As Meier Goes, So Go the Sharks?

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Credit: AP Photo/Ashley Landis

LOS ANGELES – Four years ago, Brent Burns could be considered the fulcrum of the San Jose Sharks’ offense.

At least in terms of shot generation at 5-on-5 and on the power play, there was no Shark even close to Burns.

In 2018-19, Burns took 12.0 percent of San Jose’s 5-on-5 shot attempts. Trailing Burns was runner-up Timo Meier at 8.9.

On the power play, Burns took 19.1 percent of the Sharks’ 5-on-4 attempts. Following Burns was Logan Couture at 16.0.

There’s been a role reversal in the intervening years.

This season, Meier paces the Sharks with 11.5 percent of team’s 5-on-5 shot attempts. Trailing Meier is Burns at 8.8.

On the power play, Meier has taken 21.7 percent of San Jose’s 5-on-4 attempts. Following Meier is Burns at 16.1.

For all intents and purposes, Timo Meier has become the focal point of the San Jose Sharks’ offense a la Brent Burns in his heyday.

So when Meier is off or unlucky – as he was in the 3-0 shutout loss to the Kings – the effect on the Sharks is obvious.

It was that kind of night for Meier, who also took two minor penalties, and was on the unfortunate side of this should-be goal too.

“That’s just how it goes sometimes. Bounces are not going your way,” Meier acknowledged. “Definitely can be frustrating.”

It’s not just one game though. After Meier’s five-goal explosion against the Kings on Jan. 17, he had 34 5-on-5 points (12 goals and 22 assists) through 35 games, which actually topped the NHL. Since then, he’s had just four 5-on-5 points (zero goals and four assists) in 20 games, falling to 16th in the league in this category.

Meier’s production since Jan. 18 has been mostly on the power play (five goals and three assists).

He still appears to be getting his chances: Per Evolving Hockey, his 5-on-5 shot attempt rate was 20.79 Per 60 after his five-goal performance; it’s 20.19 since then. According to Natural Stat Trick, his 5-on-5 High Danger attempt rate was 6.35 after Jan. 17 and 5.62 since then.

But the results haven’t been there individually, and not for the team either.

The San Jose Sharks are 5-9-6, tied for a league-worst 16 points, since the Swiss winger’s coming-out game.

This isn’t a criticism of Timo Meier: By my reckoning, he hasn’t been as good since the All-Star break, but he’s also legitimately carrying the team. This isn’t the 2018-19 Sharks, loaded up and down the line-up. On most nights, he’s still a struggling San Jose’s most dangerous player.

The Sharks, by the way, are the only team to average under two 5-on-5 Goals Per 60 since Jan. 18 (1.61). They were 21st in the NHL in this category (2.23) before then.

Is it fair to say as Timo Time goes, so tick the Sharks?

“I want to be a guy that has responsibility,” Meier offered.

But this much?

“I take a lot of pride having a responsibility, taking that as a challenge to drive me.”

There’s been a lot of talk, since the San Jose Sharks re-signed Tomas Hertl, about getting Hertl some help in the coming years. Just as much as Hertl, perhaps more so, Timo Meier needs that help too.

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