Player Power Rankings Week 23: Timo Time Springs Forward

Set your clocks three goals ahead before it’s too late.

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.

With two wins in two games, the San Jose Sharks, for one beautiful day, held first place in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, the Calgary Flames seemed to remember how to play the hockey game last night, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights at home to reclaim their now precarious perch.

The Sharks are in a pretty good position, still, with 14 games remaining to Calgary’s 13, and after Tuesday, eight of the Sharks’ remaining 12 games will be in the comforting confines of the SAP Center. The Sharks’ home record is stifling, and their 23-5-5 record in San Jose this year speaks for itself. Further, their home point percentage of 0.773 is the second best in the league (pretty much the best, because Tampa doesn’t count).

Of the Sharks’ next nine games, only three are against opponents in playoff position as of this morning, and one of those is the Minnesota Wild. After Monday’s game against Vegas, the Sharks have a nice cruise for two weeks, and games against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks should be ripe for a healthy point harvest. If they can swipe a few points from the visiting Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators this week, the Sharks should be in a pretty good position to overtake the Flames for good before the bell rings.

The top of the division seemed like a long shot just a few weeks ago, but the Sharks recent run of success (and the Flames recent run of abject misery) have made it a real possibility. Bring on the playoffs, and bring on the Wild. Or Dallas Stars. Or Arizona Coyotes, heck, who cares?

1. Timo Meier

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week2303301041.12

Last week: 2

The Swiss machine gun is at it again. With two goals against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, Timo Meier is up to five goals in his last four games and it seems a little more sustainable this time than his streak in the beginning of the season. For one, Meier’s shots are coming after more lateral movement and stickhandling, and less from shots right at the net that just happen to go in. For another, and using a more evidence-based approach than the unimpeachable eye test, Meier’s shots on goal per 60 minutes of play of 14.44 over those four games is significantly higher than the 11.55 he recorded during his torrid 12-goal stretch over the first 16 games of the season. Meier’s shooting percentage is pretty high, as one would expect, but a higher shot count is a more effective predictor of goal scoring than almost anything else. He’s pretty unlikely to keep scoring at this pace and pot another 17 goals this year, but his creativity with the puck is improving, and the goals are coming with it.

What Meier may have lacked in shot quality this season, he has consistently made up for in persistence. His goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday showcased a little bit of both. Hemming three defenders into the Habs’ zone, Meier and Joonas Donskoi worked together to create havoc in front of Antti Niemi’s crease. We talk a lot about how one of Meier’s strengths throughout his career his how he positions his body to generate strength and power on the puck. Through most of this sequence, Meier had his feet planted far apart, and his excellent edge work was enough to position and re-position him in such a way as to receive the puck over and over again. As Donskoi cut to the left to chase the loose puck, dogged by Montreal defender Jeff Petry, Meier waited in the slot, knowing Donskoi would win the battle. The scoring shot was eerily similar to the one Meier sneaked past Jake Allen just two days later. Foreshadowing!

2. Kevin Labanc

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week212332352.6

Generally regarded as a premier up-and-coming passer in this league, Kevin Labanc expanded his offensive repertoire on Saturday, playing the hero in overtime and sinking the soaring Blues in the youngster’s 200th NHL game. Along with recording three primary points in two games this week, Labanc led the Sharks in assists, lest we forget his primary skill set. The kid’s game has taken off lately, after his name sat at the center of some of the Sharks’ deadline day trade rumors, and his five points in five games since then may be an indicator that he’s happy to be sticking around.

Some of this play can be credited to Tomas Hertl’s sneaky change drawing Oskar Sundqvist far enough back for Labanc to scoot by him on the inside, freeing himself up for the burgeoning two-on-one. Labanc’s lack of hesitation in putting the puck on net as soon as he received the Logan Couture pass is remarkable as well, almost as remarkable as that oh-so-stylish kick back with the release. Even more heroic, this is the goal that won the Sharks the West this weekend, temporary as that may have been.

3. Joe Thornton

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week211220146.96

As pass the days of the weeks and months, inexorable in their dauntless march toward oblivion, so pass the travails of Joe Thornton into the annals of history. With his first shift on Thursday, Thornton recorded his 1551st NHL game, passing Alex Delvecchio for 14th all time. In another auspicious 14 (numerologists in attendance, let me know what all of this means), Thornton’s assist on Meier’s first goal on Saturday was his 1467th point, tying Stan Mikita for 14th all time in that regard. This week will almost definitely see the big fella pass Jarome Iginla for 13th in games played, and he’ll likely pass Steve Yzerman on the assists list before the season is over. Prepare your hearts.

This man is 39 years old. In hockey years that’s equivalent to 273 regular human years. Imagine trying to make passes like this one when you’re 273 and get back to me. As this point in his career, Thornton seems to be able to manifest his reputation around his body as a repellent aura, as both Tyler Bozak and Robert Bortuzzo appeared to bounce off of his periphery as he rounded the corner. After applying his bearded Canadian super powers in this way, threading a perfect pass through Bortuzzo’s leg right onto Meier’s tape in front of the net was essentially a formality. It cannot be said enough: what a player.

4. Logan Couture

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week202220745.07

Logan Couture’s 61 points in 68 games played this season is the same total he hit last season in 78 contests. Couture’s 74-point pace is enough to top his career high of 67 points in 2014-15 with room to spare, making him just another in a long list of Sharks players in the middle of career seasons right now. If players getting hot at the right time is the real key to postseason success (it is), the Sharks look to be well equipped with scoring depth to make some real noise in April.

Whenever we see a player lob the puck out in front of the opposing net to nobody and give up possession, it’s easy to forget that when it actually works it’s friggin’ rad. Couture was not making a blind pass to no one here, though; he pretty clearly saw Meier cutting in toward the slot before tossing the puck there. Poor Brayden Schenn was woefully under prepared for that kind of trickery, and was perhaps unfairly victimized, but such is the game.

5. Brenden Dillon

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week200000161.44

Much has been made about the changes in responsibility and efficacy of San Jose’s defensive pairings this year, but lost in that noise has been the emergence of Brenden Dillon as one of the team’s more consistently effective defenders. Until recently, Dillon’s partnership with Erik Karlsson made the former’s impact on the team’s play harder to isolate, but, in the Swede’s absence, Dillon has spent a plurality of his time with Justin Braun: the pair were on the ice for over 30 percent of the team’s even strength ice time on Saturday.

Still, as the world churns around him, Dillon just shows up and does his job. Dillon was fourth in on-ice shot attempts through the two games this week, and sits second on the season (behind Karlsson) among all Sharks skaters who’ve played in at least half of the team’s games. During a season where Couture, Meier, Hertl and others are all enjoying easily quantifiable breakouts, it’s important not to forget the growth of Brenden Dillon.

Continuing with Dillon’s consistency, his ability to hold the blueline during stretches of sustained offensive pressure is remarkable, and was a key contributor to this extended high pressure shift.

Hono(u)rable Mentions

Tomas Hertl: Hertl continues to dominate. The giant boy’s goal against Montreal earlier this week was his 30th, marking the first time the young Czech has his that mark in his career.

Marcus Sorensen: With a goal against Montreal, Sorensen recorded four goals in three games played before failing to fill the net against the Blues on Saturday.

Micheal Haley: In admittedly limited ice time (Haley’s 15:42 through two games was the lowest on the team), the Sharks’ new/old pugilistic pal led the team in on-ice shot attempt percentage at even strength with zero (0) offensive zone starts. He may not be the best option the Sharks have, but if he can continue to play this responsibly in his own end, he’ll continue to be a valuable resource for Pete DeBoer and his coaching staff.