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Deep Blue Sea: How does Sharks’ top D-pair stack up against others?

Plus Dahlen’s demotion, Jamie Benn fined, the Leafs and Coyotes make a deal and more in today’s news and notes.

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Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates his second period goal with teammate Mario Ferraro #38 of the San Jose Sharks during a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on December 5, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

The Athletic’s Harman Dayal followed up his analysis of each team’s top line with a look into their top defensive pairings, first by identifying which two players were considered each team’s top pairing, then comparing stats from goals scored while that pairing is on the ice.

The article goes into detail on the methodology for deciding which defenders were considered each team’s top pair, but it should come as no surprise that for the purposes of this breakdown, the San Jose Sharks’ top pairing is Brent Burns and Mario Ferraro. The pair have played 732 minutes together so far this season.

First, Dayal looked at each top pairing’s 5-on-5 goal differential per 60 minutes of play (goals for/60 minus goals against/60), where Burns and Ferraro just barely crack positive with 0.06, 18th overall in the league. So already not great on the defensive side of things.

The next area Dayal looked at for these pairings was their 5-on-5 expected goals differential (expected goals for/60 minus expected goals against/60), and here the Sharks ranked second to last, with a -0.51 differential. For context, the Boston Bruins lead with 0.9, while the Montreal Canadiens’ top pairing was the only one worse than San Jose, with -0.81.

Among his conclusions, Dayal noted:

Near the bottom of the chart, the Sharks’ top pair stands out. They didn’t look too bad in the first chart when we looked at goals for and against but a deeper look suggests they’ve been significantly underwater in controlling shots and chances. Brent Burns has continued creating plenty of offence but we’re starting to see deeper cracks in his two-way profile, with San Jose controlling just 43.5 percent of 5-on-5 shot attempts with him on the ice.

I know our comment section has been discussing Burns’ trade value over the last few days. He does put up points, but the defensive lapses just aren’t working in San Jose’s system. At the same time, if he gets traded to a team more suited to cover those lapses, it’ll be difficult to watch him rack up points elsewhere — no matter how much his cap hit bankrupts his hypothetical future team.

News & Notes

  • Sharks takeaways: Trade deadline approach becomes clear, Boughner’s decisions and attendance woes [The Mercury News]
  • Vegas visits San Jose after Pacioretty’s 2-goal game [ABC7 News]
  • What Sharks players might bring back at trade deadline [NBCS Bay Area]
  • Boughner Demotes Dahlen: “Hopefully, he gets that message.” [San Jose Hockey Now]

Blood in the Water

  • Breaking down the NHL’s best and worst first defence pairs this season [The Athletic]
  • Emile Francis Dies at 95; Rebuilt N.H.L.’s Rangers as Coach and General Manager [The New York Times]
  • Hockey Hall of Famer, former New York Rangers GM Emile Francis dies at 95 [ESPN]
  • Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand’s six-game ban upheld by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman [ESPN]
  • We finally know what Tristan Jarry said to Brad Marchand [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Toronto Maple Leafs trade Nick Ritchie to Arizona Coyotes for Ilya Lyubushkin, forward Ryan Dzingel [ESPN]
  • Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn fined $5K for squirting water at Chicago Blackhawks’ MacKenzie Entwistle [ESPN]
  • With nearly 900 games and 300 goals on NHL resumé, new Thunderbird James Neal already making an impact in Springfield [MassLive]

Scores & Recaps

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