Player Power Rankings Week 14: Third degree Burns

Apply ice immediately.

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.

Another week, another up and down exercise in the most extreme emotions of which a sports fan is capable. A humiliating loss to a division rival in the Calgary Flames and a strong statement win over the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning book ended an unreasonably tight one goal win over the Colorado Avalanche in which the Sharks gave up a four-goal lead.

As exciting as a win over the Lightning is, the Sharks have displayed a worrying capacity for allowing goals over the last few games. Since Dec. 1, the Sharks’ goals against per 60 minutes of 2.76 ranks 10th in the NHL, just between the Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings, teams not exactly known for their defensive prowess. Before we lambaste the team’s defensive core or structure though, the Sharks’ shot attempts against per 60 minutes is the league’s best over that span, at 49.45.

Once again, the Sharks are challenged to out-score their own goaltenders most nights, as Aaron Dell’s goals saved above average (GSAA) of -5.14 and Martin Jones’ GSAA of -2.92 at 5-on-5 are the third and twelfth worst in the NHL of 74 goaltenders who played since Dec. 1. For now, the Sharks will have to out-score their only real roster problem, but in the post season, that may not be as sustainable a solution.

This week, however, generating goals has not been a problem, as the data aptly show:

1. Brent Burns

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week3279701757.86

Last week: 4

With nine points in three games, Brent Burns led the Sharks in scoring this week, and in fine fashion. Burns also paced the boys in blue in assists, shots and shot attempts, which should come as no surprise to any of us who watched his constant bombs from the blue line. Burns is shooting for goals, tips and anything he can get rubber on and, as long as he’s playing like this, the Sharks will be well set up to continue putting up these gaudy goal totals.

This is what we were all dreaming about when the Sharks acquired Erik Karlsson this off-season. The first time in this clip that Karlsson and Burns changed places, Avs defender Carl Soderberg drifted back to watch Joe Pavelski below the goal line. By the time he faced back forward, Burns and Karlsson have backed both him and Gabriel Bourque down below the hash marks. The two Sharks blueliners swapped places two more times and, by the time the Burns shot came, he had migrated so far down into the slot that it was close range by his standards.

2. Evander Kane

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week33254161059.94

Evander Kane has been a volume shooter for his entire NHL career, and that hasn’t stopped with the donning of a teal sweater. Kane’s 147 shots lead the Sharks on the season, and his 10 shots through three games this week were second on the team only to Burns. Luckily, some of those shots went in. Kane’s three goals led the team and, with two against the high flying Lightning and their keeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, Kane was not preying on weak opposition. Kane is a known commodity, and as long as his line mates can continue to open up space on the ice for him to work, he’ll get the puck on net.

All three of Kane’s goals this week were gorgeous, but we’re going with the one where he’s playing against type. Kane likes to streak into the zone on the wing and shoot across his body from the face off dot, but this is a little different. Most notable is how Kane looked off the shot like he was looking for a pass right before his release. He fooled goaltender Philipp Grubauer almost as much as defender Tyson Barrie, who took an almost comical double take back into his own net after the shot. Kane had all of his weight on his left foot during his rotation, and set his right down into a clean mohawk turn to face the net and fire. Overall, a really deceptive goal from head to toe.

3. Joonas Donskoi

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week330330660.6

Rumors of Joonas Donskoi’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Donskoi’s three goals this week tied for the team lead, and he made his presence known early: putting the team on his back for an ill fated rally against the Calgary Flames. The Sharks would go on to lose that game, as you may remember, by quite a lot, but lay no fault at Donskoi’s feet. The Sharks’ new look forward lines had Donskoi spending a fair amount of time with Kane and Tomas Hertl, which freed them up to create more offensive opportunities away from their previous stifling defensive responsibilities. Donskoi wasted no time, and his on ice shot attempt share at 5-on-5 was the third best over the course of the week.

A lot has to go right for this shot to end up in the net. Hertl has to stick check a pass right onto Kane’s tape, Kane has to get the puck through T.J. Brodie’s stick to Donskoi, and Donskoi has to reach around Mark Giordano for a snap shot while falling to his knees. Through all of that, Donskoi picked the far corner on big save Dave Rittich for the proximate goal of the second period. The rest of the night was just as glorious for our boys who ... no, don’t look it up.

4. Joe Pavelski

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week324640954.62

A good captain leads by example and, if the Sharks are a high octane offensive team like they appear to be, Joe Pavelski is leading the right way. Pavelski’s six points in three games were second on the team behind Burns’ absurd production, and the captain leads the Sharks in goals on the season at 25. With only five secondary assists, Pavelski also leads the Sharks in primary point production, as his 33 primary points lead the team in a tie with Couture. Either Joe’s wrist injury last season had a serious effect on his shootin’ arm or he’s acutely aware of his contract status, either way, he’s getting it done.

While Burns is making a great deal of money at least partially on his ability to shoot pucks right into Pavelski’s tape, the captain himself almost always has to work at least this hard to finish the job. Pavelski just outworked Lightning defender Erik Cernak here, who probably had little expectation that there was any real threat after a simple broken break out. As soon as Burns intercepted the puck, Pavelski curled in toward the net. Cernak did a good job of picking up coverage quickly, but Pavelski was quick to extend his right leg and protect his stick. By the time the puck got there, the captain was almost turned away from the net entirely, but he made contact just in time before he whirled off into the sunset.

5. Logan Couture

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week313420361.08

With the way Logan Couture has played this year, it was starting to feel criminal not to have him more of a regular in this column. His four points in three games this week made it easy on us. Couture may only be second on the Sharks in points this season with 42 in 43 games, but he’s done so from a position in the line up normally used for shutting down the opposition’s best players. Couture is tied with Pavelski for the most primary points on the team, meaning he’s a larger factor in his line mates’ scoring than chance alone would indicate, and he’s done so with the fewest offensive zone starts of any forward not named Karlsson. More and more this year, Couture is the back bone of San Jose’s forward corps.

Couture took advantage of a sloppy change by the Lightning to get inside position on Nikita Kucherov during the Sharks’ transition. When Cernak over-committed to Timo Meier and Lukas Radil coming down the right side, Couture turned on the jets to get out into the open in front of Vasilevskiy. With his skill, Couture made that wrist shot just under Vasilevskiy’s arm look easy, but it’s the perfect ending to such a heads up play.

Hono(u)rable mentions

Lukas Radil: Earning three goals this week and a contract extension, Radil is starting to really look like yet another European free agent slam dunk from general manager Doug Wilson.

Erik Karlsson: With three regular defenders out of the line up against the top team in the NHL, Karlsson and Burns took the head. Karlsson’s 29:15 on ice that night is thirty seconds behind Burns, but his impact was impossible to ignore.

Jacob Middleton: Drawing into the Sharks’ lineup as the ninth (?) defenseman, Middleton played well in a huge win. He may not stay up for very long depending on the health of Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but he’s made a case to be called up again soon.