Player Power Rankings, Week 10: High Meier Act

A winning record? For a whole week? Break out the bubbles, lads!

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.

The Sharks may be turning a corner.

Since losing four in a row in disheartening fashion on their long road trip last week, the Sharks have won three in four, and are on the cusp of a kinder, gentler stretch of hockey. Of the Sharks’ next eight games, six are at home, four have them facing opponents who are in a playoff position as of this morning, and two of those are at the kids’ table that is our Pacific division.

If the Sharks are looking for an excuse to start stacking some standings points, this is it. After their recent unreasonably brutal stretch of road back to backs, a calm and casual ten games in 24 days to close out the calendar year seems overdue.

This week, however, while the Sharks faced many common opponents with whom they’ve become increasingly familiar, a less frequent foe reared its ugly head. In Dallas on Friday, Marcus Sorensen poked in a goal under the pad of Benjamin “Been Jammin’” Bishop after a frantic two on none courtesy of Evander Kane and Timo Meier. The goal put the Sharks up 2-0 just a few minutes into the second period, and deflated the Stars bench. Except, maybe it didn’t.

The goal was waved off, a decision that withstood challenge from the Sharks’ bench, on the back of the consistently inconsistent argument that, while the referee did not blow the play dead before the puck crossed the goal line, he intended to. For the uninitiated, from the NHL official rule book, rule 31 - Referees, section 2 - disputes, courtesy of our friends at Winging it in Motown:

As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.

As you have no doubt already concluded, this is very silly.

It also follows a common theme in NHL rules that creates the most ire among fans toward our officials: it relies on a judgment call from a referee. Intent to blow, hybrid icing, face-off violations, are all rules that rely unnecessarily on a judgment call from an official. If we want to continue to defend bad calls by officials by arguing, correctly, that their job is insanely high pressure and difficult, we should be finding ways to apply these rules that require fewer judgment calls, not more.

No touch icing, play to the whistle, start the face-off with the puck on the ice. These are simple fixes that make the job of the on ice official both less difficult and more accurate. Heck, maybe we’ll even hate them a little less.

Probably not.

1. Timo Meier

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week3145301151.27

Timo Meier returned to the Sharks’ lineup on Wednesday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he made sure we noticed. His one goal, two assist performance that night was bested only by his teammate and goaltender Martin Jones (in notoriety, not in points), who earned first star honors on the night. Still Meier’s return has reignited the Sharks’ scoring depth, and he continued to dominate on the road this weekend, scoring two assists during the back to back set.

Meier was dominant in Dallas, recording one goal, four scoring chances and two high danger shot attempts, both second on the team. This play did not count as either. The Sharks’ new look power play has been trying to generate more chances from low in the slot, using a low cycle to consolidate defensive pressure and allow more time to create offense from the point. Kevin Labanc still did what Kevin Labanc does here, though, and walked down into the face-off dot to receive Logan Couture’s bouncing pass. Labanc only partially settled the puck down before bouncing it to Meier in home plate, but Meier’s ability to shift his body to the right to get some clean wood on a wobbling rubber was impressive here. When he’s generating chances like this, using his body to move into shooting position with this kind of speed, he’s tough to stop.

2. Logan Couture

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week3224301054.79

Last week: 3

Logan Couture continued an impressive season this week, perhaps on a campaign to show us all he’s worth his brand new $8 million contract that starts next season. Couture’s two goals this week tie the team lead, and his ten shots on goal place third. Logan’s defensive responsibility has been explored extensively here and elsewhere, but his team lead in points, coupled with his measly six penalty minutes and his 55.28 percent offensive zone start ratio (third from the bottom among Sharks forwards), show an efficacy and responsibility that may be unmatched on this squad. What’s more, Logan is on a tear: with four goals and 13 points in his last 11 contests, he’s driving the offense, as well as holding up the back end.

Couture got Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill to bite on two fakes in the span of a little over a second here. When Couture dropped his left hand to fake the forehand shot at the hash marks, Hill dropped into a butterfly position far out from the crease. As Couture shifted to his back hand, Hill is forced to move his left pad out and up to respect the dreaded backhand shelf, opening up his five hole for Couture to victimize. There was really no winning for Hill after this series of moves, unless he had kept his pads together and just hoped Couture couldn’t get the lift on his backhand. Pretty slick.

3. Erik Karlsson

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week3033201664.76

Last week: 5

Erik Karlsson has started to live up to his hype on the box score. Karlsson’s three points this week were good enough for a share of third on the squad, and the Swedish dynamo led the Sharks in shots and shot attempts. On the season, Karlsson still sits second on the Sharks in 5-on-5 shot attempt share to his partner Brenden Dillon, and the former leads the team in time on ice in all situations and at 5-on-5.

This is kind of a Kevin Labanc highlight, isn’t it? It is, but Karlsson’s puck retrieval at the point is key. His quick feet there allowed Joe Pavelski to move low into the slot. Pavelski brought Jordan Staal with him, which opened up a passing lane for Couture to get the puck through to Labanc, who threaded a filthy pass that is starting to look pretty common for him to Tomas Hertl right in front. Tic-tac-tok-toe.

4. Martin Jones

TimeGames PlayedRecordShots AgainstGoals AllowedSv%GAA5v5 Sv%HDSv%5v5 GSAA
This Week21-1-07040.9432.030.9510.9560.79

He’s back! Aided in large part by a 39-save performance at home against the Carolina Hurricanes, Jones had a strong week, making a series of excellent saves during that Wednesday contest, and holding his own against the Stars two days later. At this point in the season, holding his own will do, and if he can throw in the occasional barn burner like he did earlier this week, all the better.

This showcases the kind of confidence that Jones seemingly lacked earlier in the season. As soon as Jones recognized Andrei Svechnikov’s open lane to a charging Lucas Wallmark, he came a mile out of his crease to challenge. Every inch of that mile seemed to count, as Wallmark barely tagged the sleeve of Jones’ upper arm, glancing harmlessly into the corner. More of this Jones, please.

5. Joe Thornton

TimeGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPrimary PointsPenalty MinutesShots on Goal5v5 adj Corsi for %
This Week3033201655.14

The Sharks’ game on Saturday evening in Glendale marked Joe Thornton’s 1515th NHL game. That mark set him clear of Steve Yzerman for 18th most all time. While all of Thornton’s three points this week came in one game at home against the Hurricanes, Thornton put up good possession numbers under the surface on the Sharks’ short .500 road trip, most notable carrying an 80 percent shot attempt share through the aforementioned Coyotes game.

While Radim Simek would eventually record his first NHL goal this week, it was not to be just yet. Thornton displays his usual patience on the half wall here, waiting out the persistent stick of Justin Faulk, helped by a Sorensen pick, to slide the puck to Simek high in the zone. Capitalizing on the chaos in front, Simek slammed a shot on net that found twine aided by a Meier tip.

Hono(u)rable Mentions

Lukas Radil: Radil scored his first NHL goal at the tender young age of 28, in his sixth NHL game on Saturday against Adin Hill and his Coyotes. After a decade of professional hockey (seven years in the Czech pro league and three in the KHL), Radil has finally made it, and he looks like an NHL player even when he isn’t scoring goals.

Evander Kane: Kane finally got off the proverbial schneid with two goals this week. He’s been playing pretty well for a while now, and it’s good to see a few go in for him.

Tomas Hertl: Hertl’s massive frame served him well against Carolina on Wednesday, often out-muscling poor Justin Faulk in the corner for possession, and serving as the final bounce for that power play goal we illustrated earlier.