Player Power Rankings Week 26: The Goodrow, the Bad, and the Ugly

WAR. what is it Goodrow for?

Our regular Power Rankings columnist is out this week enjoying something of a vacation in parts north. In his place, I’ll try to do his weekly aggregation of San Jose Sharks’ player performances proud. Don’t get too excited, however. Though we share a name we do not share a sense of humor (I have none) or any sort of evaluative processes. Regardless, we’ll try — you and this writer together — to assess this week in Shark’s history.

Hi, hello, yes. You’re going to want to sit down. If you’re reading this, it’s too late. After exorcising two demons by ending their losing streak and beating those pesky Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks proceeded to allow four or more goals (again), lose to the Calgary Flames (again) and hand the division crown over to Johnny “Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau and his band of caped crusaders (or something).

With playoff seedings clinched — the Sharks will play the Knights with home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs — the Sharks have little to play for but pride during their last three games. Though outsider logic might dictate that the team rest its elderly stars in anticipation of the hard-hitting extra season, we are almost sure to watch 90 more minutes of Brent Burns and 12 more pucks slide past Martin Jones during the season’s final week.

Though the losing streak was difficult to watch, precisely because it eroded quickly the team’s chances of playing a weak opponent during the first round, the team did not play poorly during their seven-game slide. In fact, at 5-on-5, they took the majority of shots and generated an impressive scoring chance differential. They pucks just didn’t go in at the rate they should have and the team’s goalies continued their journeys into their own bizarre twilight zones.

1. Barclay Goodrow

TimeGames playedGoalsAssistsPoints5v5 Primary points/60Shots on goal5v5 adj. Corsi%5v5 adj. Scoring chance%

“How,” you may ask, “does a player who scored precisely zero points end up atop the power rankings?” To which, I will reply now and always: “points don’t matter.” That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s mostly true. When evaluating players, it’s important to keep in mind that raw point totals are heavily influenced by things like puck luck and teammates and the ice conditions and whether or not Mercury is in retrograde. Truly, though: Raw point totals are to skaters what save percentages are to goalies. They’re just the last layer on top of everything else a player does.

This week, Goodrow not only was one of the better Sharks at driving 5-on-5 play, but he did so with a laundry list of linemates, including Lukas Radil, Melker Karlsson, Micheal Haley and Dylan Gambrell. Now, Radil is no slouch at helping drive shot differential, but those other three guys don’t really ooze play-driving moxy. Goodrow did all of this while helping the Sharks keep their penalty kill spotless. Fourth liners play at the margins, but every inch counts and Goodrow did more than provide an impressive inch.

2. Joe Thornton

TimeGames playedGoalsAssistsPoints5v5 Primary points/60Shots on goal5v5 adj. Corsi%5v5 adj. Scoring chance%

There’s a bit of a common theme with the rest of these rankings. Sure, the Joe Thornton line is what we might consider “sheltered.” They play mostly against opponents’ bottom-six forwards and bottom-three defenders. They are mostly deployed away from the defensive zone. Yet, players can only take what coaches put in front of them, and Thornton and his line of misfit middle-sixers has taken those minutes and run with them. Led by Father Time himself, the trio has outskated opponents during this four-game stretch. Though they haven’t exactly lit the box score on fire, they’ve helped the team control play in no small part by limiting scoring chances against at a rate much more impressive than most of their mates.

3. Marcus Sorensen

TimeGames playedGoalsAssistsPoints5v5 Primary points/60Shots on goal5v5 adj. Corsi%5v5 adj. Scoring chance%

Oh, no. No, no, no. Not another no-point rankee! “Too bad,” I say. Too bad. Marcus Sorensen, his brother Kevin and their father Joe are making playthings of the opponents around them, helping the Sharks take the vast majority of shots and generate far more scoring chances than their counterparts across the red line. We know that this line’s success is driven mostly by dad, but the younger skaters — who are nearly an entire Joe Thornton career’s worth of years younger than their center — have played their part to a “T” during these last four games. Despite Sorensen’s lack of glittery points, he’s doing The Right Things (TM).

4. Kevin Labanc

TimeGames playedGoalsAssistsPoints5v5 Primary points/60Shots on goal5v5 adj. Corsi%5v5 adj. Scoring chance%

Sure, Labanc’s goal of this stretch came in garbage time against a coasting Calgary team. But his impact on the team’s chances of winning were nothing short of heroic. 61 percent of on-ice shots at 5-on-5! That’s fantastic. Otherworldly. If the rest of the team had matched that output regularly, they likely wouldn’t be staring into the gaping abyss of an eighth loss in nine games. Though Labanc was admittedly (and unusually) unhelpful on the man-advantage during this same stretch, his ability to push things in the right direction during the other 80 percent of the game lands him a deserved bit of praise during an otherwise gloomy run of play for the rest of the team.

5. Marc-Edouard Vlasic

TimeGames playedGoalsAssistsPoints5v5 Primary points/60Shots on goal5v5 adj. Corsi%5v5 adj. Scoring chance%

Mostly, we say “poo-poo” to raw point totals, often because they indicate nothing more than a nice run of good luck. This time around, they may just be a bit of a beacon. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who has scored 5-on-5 points at the rate of a first-pairing defender for most of the Pete DeBoer era, has come crashing vividly back to earth this season. The slight uptick in scoring rate combined with his impressive performance limiting scoring chances — he’s been on the ice for the lowest rate of said chances among his blueline compatriots — maybe, just maybe signals a season-ending push of positive play in an otherwise forgetful year. A team for which suppressing scoring chances is going to be a crucial litmus test in front of badly struggling goalies needs all the help it can get. In that regard, Vlasic delivered this week as few around him did. For that, he earns deserved recognition.

Honorable Mentions

Lukas Radil, Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed and Justin Braun: Aside from those listed above, these four helped the team generate the most impressive rate of scoring chances during 5-on-5 play. The bane of this team lately has been its inability to consistently mount dangerous attacks. That performance dip has led to loss after loss because not creating scoring chances makes it hard to score. These four are here because they have done more this week than most to create offense in the right places.