Player Power Rankings, Week 15: Game of Jones

He stares right into your very soul.

Welcome to Fear the Fin’s weekly(ish) player power rankings. Who had the biggest impact, the best goals or the prettiest smile in the week that was and who you should totally grab off of waivers in your fantasy league to stick it to Derek in accounts receivable. All rankings subject to the whims of fate and whatever we’re feeling in the moment.

It’s starting to look like these San Jose Sharks might be pretty good.

Sitting on a tidy six-game winning streak — the longest active winning streak in the NHL — the Sharks are three points out of first place in the Pacific division and the third best team in the league (albeit with two more games played than the fourth place Winnipeg Jets). The Sharks have won nine of their last ten, and since their humiliating loss to the Senators in Ottawa on Dec. 1, they’ve earned 32 of 40 possible points, compiling a 15-3-2 record through those 20 games, the second most of any team in that span (first is the Tampa Bay Lightning and they don’t count anymore).

One key to that success has been the play of goaltender Martin Jones, which is a conversation for two paragraphs from now, but another has been the success of the Sharks’ depth. Up front, the play of San Jose’s middle six has been among the tops of the league: according to Corsica’s line combination rankings, Logan Couture flanked by Lukas Radil and Timo Meier make up the second best second line in the NHL, and, to the surprise of no one, Tomas Hertl centering Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane are the top-ranked third line.

On defense, the comparisons are even more stark. Erik Karlsson and Brenden Dillon rank as the league’s fourth best first pair, and Brent Burns and Radim Simek as the second best second pair. With an admittedly small sample size, the third pair of Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed that we saw for most of the week was the second best depth defensive coupling in the league.

It’s hard to be too definitive without a strong operational understanding of how those rankings are calculated, and that kind of information is understandably proprietary, but this kind of recognition gives us a pretty good indication that a lot of what the Sharks have been doing these past few weeks is for real. There are things the team could do better, for sure, and things that we focus on as areas to improve, but for now, let’s all just ride the wave together and enjoy the good times before the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town and shatter all of our dreams again.

1. Martin Jones

TimeGames PlayedRecordShots AgainstGoals AllowedSv%GAA5v5 Sv%HDSv%5v5 GSAA
This Week33-0-08940.9551.50.9291.0001.65

A common and appropriate lightning rod for criticism so far this season, Jones has made us eat quite a few of our words this week. Luckily, I write about sports on the internet, so the words I use are easy to digest, but he’s looked more like the player Doug Wilson swindled out of Los Angeles by way of Boston so many drafts ago. Jones bailed the Sharks out of more than a few ugly situations at home this week while hosting the Vegas Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators, securing his seventh straight win in the process. Jones’ career high winning streak of eight came in his first eight career starts from Dec. 3 — 21, 2013, and that streak may be in jeopardy.

There are red flags, however. Since that Dec. 1 game in Ottawa, Jones has posted a .920 save percentage, 2.36 average goals against, and a goals saved above average (GSAA) of 2.77. That GSAA is 22nd in the league of 74 goaltenders who saw ice during that span. The concern, just as was a concern last year, is that his numbers appear to be propped up by what may be unsustainably high rate stats on the penalty kill. Jones’ penalty kill GSAA of 1.75 is 14th in that span, and his even strength is -1.28.

Perhaps Jones is a more effective goalie in high pressure situations, a theory that would help to explain the vast discrepancy between his regular season and playoff rate stats, and is therefore better at stopping high danger chances in outnumbered situations, but that seems unlikely. Penalty kill save percentage is a notoriously volatile statistic, and is often used to indicate a goalie who is getting either very good or very bad bounces, leading to over- or under-performing. We’ll need to keep an eye on Jones going forward to see if he can sustain this kind of play over a longer period of time before knowing for sure.

This week, though: he’s money.

When Jones is on his game, his movements are quick, precise, and controlled. The way that Jones followed the puck movement during this Senators power play is a good example of how effectively he can stay square to the play. As Ottawa moved the puck from point to point, and then down low to Mark Stone in the trigger slot, Jones moved to face the puck and dropped into position each time. When he faced Stone at the faceoff dot, he made sure to keep Brady Tkachuk in front of the frontal plane of his body, rather than coming out to challenge. That allowed him a quick lateral move to block Tkachuk’s tip in attempt, and was just one of many great positional saves Jones made to keep the Sharks in a game for which they may have woken up a little late.

2. Joonas Donskoi

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week440040667.77

Last week: 3

Joonas Donskoi was having himself a hell of a week before an errant Mark Borowiecki entered his life and ended his evening Saturday night. While Donskoi came back and skated a few more shifts near the end of the first period, he did not return for the second. Still, Donskoi’s four goals in four games, aided by two in Tuesday’s obliteration of the Edmonton Oilers, led the team, and his injury in Ottawa ended a stretch of eight games in which Donskoi tallied eight goals and ten points. The Sharks’ third line was the team’s primary offensive engine this week, and they appropriately occupy 60 percent of this ranking.

When Donskoi is playing with this kind of confidence, he’s difficult to stop. As soon as he gained the offensive blueline, Donskoi’s fake toward the center fooled defender Caleb Jones enough to allow the Finn to get around his outside. By the time he muscled back through to the net, Jones was an afterthought and Tim Heed had effectively taken Kris Russell out of the play. Donskoi let the puck go off of his backhand earlier than Cam Talbot anticipated, and caught him moving laterally, opening up the five hole, and not allowing Jujhar Khaira to aught but gape.

3. Erik Karlsson

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week4066301162.09

Erik Karlsson’s three assists in each of two back-to-back games early this week enshrined him into obscure stats history: becoming the fifth NHL defenseman to record assists in 14 consecutive appearances. The Swede still sits in first place on the team in shot attempt share and third in scoring. Karlsson led the team in points and in assists this week, and recorded an absurd 15 points in six games since returning from suspension. Elliotte Friedman’s 31 thoughts last week references the suspension, and that Karlsson was particularly upset about it. If this is what angry Karlsson looks like, maybe we can get the league to suspend him again for the last few games of the regular season.

There’s not much more enjoyable than a clean Erik Karlsson outlet pass like this one. Karlsson had his head up and staring right at Hertl from behind his own goal line and, with the help of some slow motion, you can see Karlsson nod his head just as he passes the face off dot, signaling the Czech to be ready. The modern NHL defenseman is no longer a 6-foot-4, 250-pound bruiser who patrols the front of his crease looking for blood (except for Dustin Byfuglien, we still love you, Buff), he is a fast, smart skater who can move the puck forward. Karlsson was a modern NHL defenseman before it was cool.

4. Evander Kane

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week4235402165.77

Last week: 2

As part two of the “the Sharks' third line is really good, guys” feature, Evander Kane was flying this week. A three-point night against the Oilers, aided by two goals off of skates, helped Kane to five goals and 11 points in his last eight games. Kane led the squad in shots this week, and recorded the second-most shot attempts and the second highest shot attempt share. What’s more, with 168 shots on goal on the season, Kane moved up into a tie with Brent Burns, the shot master himself. If Kane can keep turning in performances like this, Burns will be hard pressed to keep his crown.

Just because it wasn’t a “distinct kicking motion” doesn’t mean Kane did not definitely intend to kick that there puck into that there net. Somewhere in between Burns letting go of the cross-crease pass, Darnell Nurse lifting Kane’s stick, and the puck reaching his feet, Kane had the presence of mind to turn his left foot so that the puck could bank off of his skate into the net without “distinctly” kicking it. This goal spelled the end of Talbot’s night, thankfully, not that Mikko Koskinen fared much better.

5. Tomas Hertl

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week423550864.64

The center of the Sharks’ offense juggernaut this week, Tomas Hertl ranked second in points and in assists this week, and third in shot attempt share. Hertl has been quietly producing at a strong pace lately, and has ten goals and 20 points in his last 19 contests. What’s more, he’s the most responsibly productive player on the team: Hertl’s 6.33 points per penalty minute (a very real and useful stat that I did not just make up today by mashing two other numbers together) is the highest on the team.

I believe we capital-A Analysts call this "sticktoitiveness."

Made up words aside, Hertl’s insistence on getting this puck on net as many times as possible is commendable. Hertl’s skating and hustle allowed him to out fox Nate Schmidt two or three times here, turning a one-on-two into effectively a one-on-zero.

Hono(u)rable mentions

Melker Karlsson: With two more third period goals to his name, Karlsson now has six of his eight total goals on the season in the final frame. That probably doesn’t mean anything, but as soon as I find a narrative into which I can shoehorn that stat, you’ll be the first to know.

Lukas Radil: With a promotion up to the second line with Logan Couture, Radil is producing. Radil put eight shots on net this week, and ranked fifth on the team in shot attempts with 12. Given the opportunity, the kid can fire.

Brent Burns: Burns’ five points this week gives him 52 in 47 games on the season, leading all defensemen in the league by five. The Sharks’ aforementioned depth is a key component, but Burns and Karlsson on the back end are what make this team a contender.