Morning games are rough on the West Coast body. In Ottawa today, the early start seemed to give both teams fits through the opening frame. Though San Jose came away with 55% of all 5v5 shots during the first 20 minutes, most of the ones that made their way through unimpeded were from miles away. The Ottawa Senators, for their part, built up a number of chances in the middle of the Sharks’ slot, a foreshadowing of what was to come.
In the second period, special teams coaxed the building to life, as both teams scored power play goals. From there, however, the Sharks continued their descent into mediocrity. While battling to keep a marginal shot advantage at 5v5, San Jose allowed two more goals in the middle 20. Prompted by the score deficit, the team climbed back up the shot-differential ladder, only to be stymied by the pads of Craig Anderson and an unlucky moment or two.
The Senators continued to spoil Erik Karlsson’s homecoming, notching a fourth goal in the third period before taking their collective foot off the gas. Most concerning about this game, however, was losing to a team that had been on a hot run, yes, but had been playing mostly poorly during that same stretch. This game was not so much a bad road loss as it was another data point in a long string of data points during the last month or so that have been trending in the wrong direction.
Compounding the team’s errant play of late is Martin Jones’ continued struggle. Today, according to Evolving-Hockey.com, Jones’ save percentage on unblocked shots was nearly seven percent below expected at even strength. His poor performance, like that of the rest of the team, just another mark in a trend line that has been unfavorable through the season’s first quarter.
So far, the Sharks have not been up to the task of overcoming its coaching staff’s weird lineup decisions since the Nashville game in October. At this point, however, something will have to give.
There will be a video tribute to Karlsson, E. during the first period for TSN5 viewers
Jumbo had EK65 take a solo warmup lap
20:00: DeBoer decides to reward Karlsson, M. for his work last game, moving him up to Jumbo’s other wing to start. Long leash for someone who usually is out shot.
16:06: I promised fireworks but this has been a dud so far. Sharks still physiologically waking up; Ottawa just kinda, well, Ottawa.
12:01: The Karlsson video tribute has been the most intriguing moment of this game so far.
5:54: Erik Karlsson makes a wonderful diagonal pass to Evander Kane, who was waiting at the back post. Craig Anderson gets over in time to make the save, though.
0:00: Good news is the Sharks took 55% of all 5v5 shots. The bad news is most of those shots were from the blueline, and Ottawa had plenty of opportunities from in close. Oh, and Brenden Dillon missed the last few shifts of the opening period, so San Jose might be down a skater for the next 40 minutes.
20:00: Injury update: the Sharks are without both Brenden Dillon and Joe Thornton to begin the period.
16:54: On Jumbo’s first shift back in the game, Falk takes him hard into the boards. Marcus Sorensen takes umbrage with the play and fights Falk. Both guys are in the box for five. Jumbo looks a bit shaken up; he went into the boards hard.
14:56: Evander Kane trips Bobby Ryan in the Sharks’ offensive zone. Delayed penalty coming up.
13:07: Ottawa gets a 2-on-1 after Vlasic breaks his stick but luckily the centering pass was behind the incoming forward and the Sharks can breathe.
12:30: Bouncing puck finds its way onto Ryan Dzingel’s stick. The Senators’ power play hasn’t been very good this season, but they do generate plenty of unblocked shots right around the goalmouth. Sharks’ iffy penalty kill regressing back toward what’s more expected.
12:15: Sharks on the power play. Against Ottawa’s penalty kill, we’d expect a team with average shooters to be four percent more likely to score than average. They also allow plenty of unblocked shots near their right circle. It’s Couture time coming up.
10:37: Nearly half a minute of 5v3 for the Sharks here after Kane is tripped in the neutral zone.
10:11: Burns, Pavelski, Jumbo. Goal. Retribution.
8:41: Dzingel on a breakaway after a bad Dillon pass hits the junction and, boy. That was close.
7:04: Atonement came quickly for Ottawa as Ben Harpur wrists one from the left circle, off the far post, and in.
6:15: Tierney, Boedker, and Bobby Ryan put together a nice sequence and add a third to Ottawa’s tally. Not sure why Evander Kane was playing defense there.
Zeroes: More of the same, unfortunately for the Sharks. Due in part to the sudden two-goal deficit, San Jose poured on the 5v5 shots toward the end of the period. They also started getting unblocked shots from the slot. Still, the team allowed far too many opportunities from dangerous chances in their own zone—a continuation of the first period—and this time the Sens capitalized on those chances.
18:00: Sorensen just misses knocking in a puck in the crease. Plenty of unluck there.
16:59: Shorks to the penalty kill again. This could be ungood.
15:57: Senators end up with a 3-on-1 after Vlasic joins the shorthanded rush and a missed shot starts the break the other way. Boedker sends a pass to Mark Stone who puts four on the board for Ottawa. Lol.
11:05: Sorensen and the Joes connect for a sparkling chance but Craig Anderson gets his pad over.
5:08: Sharks pull Jones and Paajarvi puts, from his own zone, the Sens’ fifth goal in the back of the net.
2:00: Dillon shoots and the puck takes a nice deflection. Everyone is consoled.
1:00: Ottawa adds a sixth for good measure.
Game: If this doesn’t make the coaching staff make changes or at least give them pause, then I don’t know what else there is to be done.
The San Jose Sharks stagger into Ottawa with a little bit of a problem. Los Tiburones have lost three in a row — a streak that includes a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Los Vegas and a 5-3 loss to old pal Patrick Marleau and the Maple Leafs. Against the Leafs, by the way, the Sharks allowed three goals in the first period. These goals against (mostly) aren’t random events of bad luck, either. In its last six games (which include two 4-0 victories at home), San Jose has only taken 49.8 percent of all score- and venue-adjusted shots at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick. Where the team is now is a long way to fall from the 60+ percent perch they enjoyed during the season’s first 10 games.
Ottawa, meanwhile, is just bad. The team has won three in a row lately, and has won seven of its last 12 games since we learned the salacious details of an evening Uber ride in Phoenix. But the wins and points are a mirage. Behind the veil of a season turnaround lies a team that has taken an almost-shockingly (thanks, Rangers!) low 45 percent of all score- and venue-adjusted shots at 5-on-5 during that time. The Sens have been lucky to shoot a league-high 11.6 percent at 5-on-5 over those 12 games. League average is closer to eight.
On the other side of the rink, starting goalie Craig Anderson has already played a league-high 23 games and has been decidedly below average at 5-on-5 this year. The goalie with the next-most games played? Mike McKenna, who has played five. On the list of NHL goalies who have played as many games, McKenna ranks dead last in save percentage above average on unblocked shots, according to MoneyPuck. It is only a matter of time before the sheen of a golden November wears off and the team wobbles along on its “Oh, damn, the wheels fell off again” fashion.
A sinking Sharks team (imagine that) and a desert vision of a Senators group should at least combine for good theater. The teams rank third and fourth in pace of play — defined as the total rate of 5-on-5 shots taken per 60 minutes plus the total rate of shots allowed per 60 minutes — respectively. Though it may not be an advantage anymore, the Sharks also rank second-quickest in expected goals pace, and Ottawa is above average there. Whatever happens, prepare yourselves for plenty of shots, bizarre bounces, and the age-old “San Jose really misses Chris Tierney” takes.
This, the state of the teams and their respective form, is all just the sideshow, though, isn’t it? The real story is the return of a folk hero. It seems fans, media, and ex-teammates alike can agree on Erik Karlsson’s greatness. Reporters seemed cordial, and excited to see Karlsson during his press conference yesterday afternoon. Mark Stone, by far the best player remaining from the team’s 2017 Eastern Conference Final run, was asked how he thought fans should or would react to Karlsson’s return today.
“[Karlsson’s] probably going to get a standing ovation,” Stone said, with reason befitting the reasonable. “I think he deserves it with what he did on the ice every night.” I think he does, too.
San Jose Sharks projected lineup (“+” means that group has been outperforming the Sharks as a whole. “-” means this group has underperformed the rest of the team. A “/” means this unit is about team average. No mark means there is insufficient data for a given unit.):
Evander Kane — Joe Pavelski — Joonas Donskoi (+)
Tomas Hertl — Logan Couture — Kevin Labanc (-)
Melker Karlsson — Joe Thornton — Marcus Sorensen
Lukas Radil — Antti Suomela — Barclay Goodrow
Joakim Ryan — Brent Burns (/)
Brenden Dillon — Erik Karlsson (+)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Justin Braun (-)
Martin Jones (-)
Scratches: Timo Meier (injured), Tim Heed, Radim Simek
Ryan Dzingel — Matt Duchene — Drake Batherson (-)
Brady Tkachuk — Colin White — Mark Stone (+)
Mikkel Boedker — Chris Tierney — Bobby Ryan (-)
Magnus Paajarvi — Zack Smith — Tom Pyatt (+)
Thomas Chabot — Dylan DeMelo (+)
Maxime Lajoie — Cody Ceci (-) (Note: Justin Falk might play if Lajoie cannot)
Ben Harpur — Christian Jaros (-)
Craig Anderson (-)
Scratches: Erik Burgdoerfer
Where to Watch
The game will be broadcast on NBCSCA in the Bay Area, SportsNet and TVA Sports in Ottawa. The radio call, as always, is hosted on 98.5 KFOX. Puck drop is a 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern.