The Sharks (8-5-3, 3rd Pacific) are on the ice again tonight to face the St. Louis Blues (5-5-3, 7th Central) for the first time this season, in just their second back-to-back contest so far this year.
The Sharks are probably feeling frustrated after an embarrassing loss to the Dallas Stars last night, but Martin Jones might be feeling the worst, making just 18 saves in the 4-3 loss. Aaron Dell is expected to start in goal to give Jones the night off before they head back to the Bay.
The Blues have had their own share of frustrations so far this season. After missing playoffs for the firsttime in seven years, Mike Yeo's Blues are in a whole new era and it's unclear if things are going as planned. The team has lost several players over the last two years, though the additions of Ryan O'Reilly and Pat Maroon seemed like a move that would keep concerns at bay, at least for awhile. The Blues now sit at the bottom of the Central Division, searching for answers that Yeo is trying to provide by throwing anything he can onto the ice, lest he become next in the line of coaches already relieved of their duties so far this year.
One of those solutions is to scratch major acquisition, Maroon, as the Blues take on the Sharks tonight.
Bold strategy. We'll see if it pays off.
Timo Time is Tickin’
Timo Meier is now the Sharks’ second-leading scorer and overall goals leader after scoring the Sharks’ first goal against the Stars. Meier is tied with Logan Couture at 17 points, with 12 total goals, while Couture has 6. Meier has 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist) in his last five games, with just over a point-per game pace on the season. And he’s tied with Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane and David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals. Pretty neat.
Meier’s ice time is trending upwards as well. He played just a hair short of 20 minutes last night in Dallas. His season-average ice time sits around 17 minutes. Last season, he averaged nearly 15 minutes a game and tallied 36 points.
Meier’s shooting percentage has jumped way up, to a wild 22.9 percent. That number will certainly regress over the course of the season. He started his career with a 3.5 shooting percentage — realistically, he'll fall somewhere in-between.
Meier has been a solid possession player for the Sharks since he reached the NHL in 2016-17. His average Corsi-for hasn’t been below 50 percent yet in his career.
Since he’s only 22 now, Meier still has a few years where he can hit his ceiling for the Sharks over the next couple of seasons. It’s likely that Timo Time is just getting started in the Bay.
Special Teams Showdown
The Blues have a top-three power play in the NHL. The Sharks have a top-three penalty kill.
Conversely, the Blues have a middle-of-the-pack penalty kill, and the Sharks have a middle-of-the-pack power play.
So something is bound to happen on someone’s special teams time.
The Sharks failed to score on their power play opportunities last night. That includes the four minute double minor when Meier was made to bleed in the second period. But the Stars didn’t score on their singular man-advantage, either.
On Tuesday, the Blues went one for four on the power play, but also gave up a goal in five penalty kills.
The Blues lead the NHL in faceoff win percentage, controlling 55.6 percent of all draws so far this season. Against Carolina, their advantage was even stronger: the Blues won 60 percentof their faceoffs. Three individual Blues won over half their faceoffs. All season, five players have won 50 percent or more of their faceoffs, not counting fluke 100 percent players.
The Blues’ dominance at the dot is powered mainly by Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly has won 63.2 percent of his faceoffs, by far the most of any player to take at least 200 this season.
O’Reilly is also the Blues’ points leader this season (7-12-19). He’s recorded at least one point in each of his past five games. Three of his goals came against Carolina for his first career hat trick in his tenth season.
While faceoffs are a puck battle like any other, that could challenge the Sharks' largely dominate possession game to lose those battles.
Bold prediction: Kevin Labanc gets a hat trick, and I definitely didn’t pull players’ names from a hat to come up with this prediction.
The Sharks have a day off on Saturday before playing the Calgary Flames in a late afternoon-early evening game. The Blues will play Minnesota at noon Pacific on Sunday.