Erik did a great analysis below about the 2 or fewer stat and what it really means as a hockey team. For their part, the Sharks have kept the streak going, beating the Arizona Coyotes tonight 4-2 and sticking with the 2 or fewer trend.
The win was perhaps one of the better ones I’ve seen this season because of the adversity the Sharks faced. It was adversity of their own making, but adversity nonetheless. San Jose went down two goals early in the game. At 1:33 into the first period, Arizona scored its first goal. 39 seconds later, they scored their second goal.
It was a brutal 10 minutes of hockey after that. Arizona looked like it had the game in hand until Logan Couture settled things down and absolutely sniped the puck over Antti Raanta’s shoulder. That seemed to flip a switch for the Sharks and the team woke up.
When all was said and done, the Sharks had scored four unanswered goals. Two by Couture, one by Dylan Gambrell and one by Timo Meier. It was the first come from behind win for the Sharks this season and it could be a turning point for a team that has crumbled under adversity so far.
A couple of other housekeeping items. This was career win 150 for Martin Jones. The team won 11 games in November, which is why we’re now third in the Pacific Division. Yes, I said third. We’re three back of Phoenix and four back of the Edmonton Oilers.
Happy Saturday! Erika here live blogging with you for tonight’s game. Hopefully, it’s a good one.
20:00 - Puck drop.
18:27 - Crazy tic tac toe play that made the Sharks defense look pathetic. Christian Dvorak to Conor Garland to Nick Schmaltz and then past Martin Jones. 1-0 Coyotes.
17:48 - And as I write that Derek Stepan has a slam dunk goal of his own. 2-0 Coyotes.
16:13 - Michael Grabner on the breakaway. The shot misses the net. If it was on, it was probably 3-0 Coyotes.
14:33 - Clayton Keller misses the net on his breakaway. Something needs to change or it’s going to be a beat down.
13:24 - Evander Kane finally gets the Sharks’ first shot on goal.
9:52 - Sharks called for icing. Sigh.
8:59 - Logan Couture with a great shot to beat Antti Raanta up high. The Sharks show signs of life. 2-1 Coyotes.
8:04 - Timo Meier with a scoring chance and then the Coyotes ice the puck.
4:00 - Grabner took a puck to the face. We’ll see if he misses some ice time. He’s rubbing his cheek, but no blood.
3:26 - Jakob Chychrun gets called for high-sticking Kevin Labanc. We’re 0-for 16 lately, so a goal would be good.
1:26 - Power play ends with no goal. Sharks best chances came with the second unit.
0:00 - Period ends 2-1 in favor of the Coyotes. San Jose was horrific in the first five minutes. Those two goals were defensive breakdowns all over the place. But Couture got them back in the game with a pretty goal and the Sharks still have a shot so at least we can be thankful for that.
19:49 - Barclay Goodrow with a great scoring chance. Sharks come out with more fire this period.
17:05 - Dylan Gambrell back in the lineup and on the score sheet. He shoots through traffic to tie the game. 2-2 Sharks.
11:11 - Coyotes called for icing. Sharks much more into this game now. A tie score helps.
11:08 - And the icing pays off. Tomas Hertl wins the faceoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic shoots it immediately. Timo Meier tips it in front of Raanta and the Sharks now lead 3-2.
9:21 - Jones with a big save on Keller. Keeps the Sharks in the lead.
8:10 - Noah Gregor with a bid for his second NHL goal. Raanta stops it.
4:54 - Jones gloves the pck in the crease after a pair of chances by the Coyotes.
4:30 - Jones just fought off a pair of chances by Christian Dvorak.
3:15 - Kevin Labanc with a pretty easy save for Raanta, but at least he put the puck on net.
2:01 - Gregor with another good opportunity that’s stopped by Raanta. Like to see that fourth line getting chances and earning ice time.
0:06 - Sharks ice the puck. Need to have a good faceoff to end the period.
0:00 - Second period ends with a 3-2 score in favor of the Sharks. San Jose came out hot and scored a pair, then they held off the Coyotes. Maybe they just needed a little more time to get warmed up.
19:24- Jones makes a huge save on Brad Richardson to stop the goal.
19:23 - Erik Karlsson called for tripping as he clears Richardson out of the way. Coyotes on the power play.
17:30 - Goodrow with some fancy stick moves to get free and go in on a breakaway that he couldn’t convert on. Almost got a shortie. Bret Hedican catches a slash on the back of Goodrow’s leg on the replay. He thinks it should have been a penalty shot.
17:23 - Sharks have killed the penalty.
14:52 - Sharks having trouble getting it out of their own zone and it’s leading to a few chances by the Coyotes.
13:05 - Erik Karlsson headed back to the box, this time for tripping Clayton Keller. He is not happy with the call and has a few choice words for the ref.
11:05 - Sharks kill the penalty.
10:49 - And they’re right back on it. Radim Simek accidentally puts the puck out of play in the defensive zone.
8:49 - Sharks kill the penalty again and hit Simek as he comes out of the penalty box. A pair of scoring chances that they can’t convert on. Still 3-2 Sharks.
7:15 - Jones makes an easy save.
6:18 - Too close. Richardson just rang one off the post.
5:26 - Sharks called for icing. Need a clear.
4:39 - Shot by Erik Karlsson saved by Raanta. The longer we stay on that end of the ice, the better.
3:31 - Jones with the save. No traffic in front of the net so it was an easy save for him.
2:28 - Puck out of play. Looks like the Sharks got away with one.
1:34 - Raanta is out of the net. 6-on-5 now.
0:48 - Jones with a huge save on Stepan. Jones squeezed his pads together tight, he wasn’t sure he had it.
0:48 - Coyotes take a time out.
0:29 - Couture tacks on the empty netter. Assists by Tomas Hertl and Barclay Goodrow. 4-2 Sharks.
0:00 - Sharks hold off the final push by the Coyotes and the Sharks win 4-2.
The San Jose Sharks (14-12-1, 4th Pacific) are opening their season series against the Arizona Coyotes (15-8-4, 2nd Pacific) in Glendale tonight on a bit of a roll. After a five-game losing streak that seemed to consign our boys to the dustbin of history, the Sharks are winners of ten of their last twelve games, and have climbed right back up to the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. During that miserable stretch earlier in the season, we talked about the Sharks needing to rattle off one or probably two insane winning streaks to get back to post-season contention, and this has been one of them.
Speaking of streaks, let’s take a moment to address #2orfewer. The Sharks set an NHL record with their dominant win yesterday over the Los Angeles Kings: they have a 44-game winning streak in games in which they allow two or fewer goals. In a vacuum, that’s an interesting stat, but it’s being used to draw a lot of conclusions that don’t actually follow from the data.
First, let’s commend the creator of the hashtag for their very good grammar. In a less erudite world, we’d be fighting the tyranny of a #2orless trend, and that would have given me an aneurysm weeks ago. Second, let’s address the parsing of language in that streak. On NHL.com’s preview of today’s game, they said “The Sharks have allowed two goals or fewer in each of their past 44 wins, an NHL record.” That’s backward. One need only think back to Tuesday to find a win in which they allowed three goals to these very same Kings.
The actual streak is that within the set of games in which two or fewer goals are allowed, the Sharks have won 44 in a row, meaning they have not lost a game due to scoring two or fewer goals, going back to a 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals at home on March 10, 2018. Third, what that streak actually means is a harder question. One caveat is that the record of all teams when allowing two or fewer goals is very good. Since that same date, the record of any team allowing two or fewer goals in the NHL regular season is 1335-125-145, meaning 83 percent of teams in the league win in that situation.
That should allow some caution to those of you (okay, us) who dislike the two or fewer trend because the odds are so in favor of winning games with such a massive caveat as allowing two or fewer goals; it is a remarkable stat worth looking at, since the odds in a vacuum of winning an 83 percent coin flip 44 times in a row are around 2.75 x 10⁻⁴, which is, for those of us with social science degrees (raises hand), very improbable.
That means there is something the Sharks are doing in games in which they allow few goals that leads to success. What it isn’t is a comment on the team’s defense. It’s been referenced as a stat that props up some notion about defensive responsibility, but it means the opposite. It means that the Sharks score two or fewer goals so rarely that they don’t lose by that margin very often. It means that the team’s offense is better than average, not their defense. That argument is propped up by a talented offense that has scored, on average, 3.37 goals per game in that span, fourth most in the NHL. That’s quite a bit higher than two, so it stands to reason that in any given game, they are pretty likely to outscore a two-goal opponent.
It may also have to do with less than stellar goaltending that tends to allow more than two goals. That means that games in which they allow fewer are more likely to have been the result of a dominant possession game, since more shots on goal end up in their own net than in the case of an average team.
In short, #2orfewer is interesting, and there is information in there about the construction and strategies of the team, but it’s almost definitely descriptive information, not predictive, so let’s all stop pretending that all the team needs to do is allow two or fewer goals. That’s reductive, lazy analysis, and we can be better than that.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming, the Coyotes are on a bit of a streak of their own. With at least a point in their last eight games, and in their last nine inter-division contests, the Desert Dogs are hanging around near the top of the division, largely based on the stellar and consistent play by goaltender (checks notes) Darcy Kuemper. Luckily for our boys in blue, Kuemper is not likely to play today after stopping 37 of 38 Vegas Golden Knights shots in a shootout loss last night (no two or fewer for the Coyotes, apparently). Still, Arizona boasts a strong defensive structure and, at 63 goals against, have allowed the fewest to date in the NHL. All three of their most recent games have gone the way of the skills contest, so if you’re a shootout fan (sheepishly raises hand again), you’re in for a treat.
The Knights are idle tonight, so a Sharks win would bump them up to third in the division, three (or four, if the ‘Yotes shootout trend continues) points back of Arizona and three teams clear of the playoff cutoff line. They didn’t hold that spot on Thanksgiving day, which means they’re doomed for sure, but they can keep up pretenses for a while longer.
Injured Reserve: Dalton Prout (upper body), Lukas Radil (undisclosed)
The team’s social media people appear to be just as out of the loop as we are regarding what we can expect to see from the Sharks’ lines tonight. This is an estimate straight from the shark’s mouth, we’ll know more closer to puck drop.
Christian Dvorak — Nick Schmaltz — Conor Garland
Barrett Hayton — Carl Soderberg — Phil Kessel
Clayton Keller — Derek Stepan — Vinnie Hinostroza
Michael Grabner — Brad Richardson — Christian Fischer
Jakob Chychrun — Alex Goligoski
Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Jason Demers
Ilya Lyubushkin — Jordan Oesterle
Expected Scratches: Aaron Ness
Injured Reserve: Lawson Crouse (upper body), Niklas Hjalmarsson (lower body)
Raanta missed the last two games with an illness, so hopefully the Sharks can take advantage of some rust. If they can get by Raanta, they’ll have solved half the battle, the other half is on Dell, and the other other half is keeping Jason Demers out of the locker room with all those bottles.
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 5 p.m. Pacific / 8 p.m. Eastern at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Your home moving pictures box will display the game’s events if you tune it to Fox Sports Arizona or NBC Sports California, and your computer will do the same if you have an nhl.tv subscription. Radio broadcast will be available at 98.5 KFOX as usual, and streamable through the SAP Center + Sharks app, despite being in a different building. The wonder of it all!