The San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets start their season series with a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee at the SAP Center. The Sharks are fresh off a poor showing aginst the St. Louis Blues and the woes of the Jets are leading some to call for drastic measures.
Jets Grounded By Uneven Play
Most of the digital ink spilled in Winnipeg points to the goaltending as the major concern for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson form a tandem that has struggled all year with giving up untimely goals and the usual hiccups of a 23-year-old netminder learning his job at the NHL level. Longtime Jet Ondrej Pavelec remains buried in the AHL, and his decent play has some fans forgetting about his career .907 save percentage, which is an exact match of Hellebuyck’s stat line as well. Hellebuyck has mainly struggled with high-danger shots, saving only 75.64% of shots in close, far below the NHL average of about 80.7%.
The HNIC crew just said Pavelec should be called up and now there's a TV sized hole through my apartment window. ? #NHLJets
— Alan (@sliiiiip) January 15, 2017
Patrik Laine, the goal-scoring teenage phenom from Tampere, Finland won’t play today in San Jose. The second overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft is still recovering from a concussion sustained on an enormous open-ice hit when Mark Scheifele’s pass left the winger defenseless to a perfectly timed check from Jake McCabe. Drew Stafford has stepped into Laine’s role on the second line, a noticeable dip in talent.
The Jets will also be without Tyler Myers against the Sharks. The 6’8 defender is on the injured-reserved list with a back injury, and there has been no timetable set for his return. Myers has just five points in the year but ranks third on the squad in time on ice.
Sharks Struggle in the New Year
On paper, the Sharks should have made a game of it against the struggling St. Louis Blues and instead came out with a terrible effort against former San Jose Sharks farmhand Carter Hutton. There has been no word on supplemental disciple for Joe Thornton’s spearing major taken in the second period against the Blues so he should be on the ice today.
here's the spear on Statsny that Thornton got ejected for last night pic.twitter.com/4ZsXOOSEPR
— steph (@myregularface) January 16, 2017
The Sharks issues at this point are starting to swell beyond the lack of secondary scoring.
The power-play has been an area of concern all year and for the talent available has not performed at the level needed. The Sharks are married to Burns, Couture, Pavelski and Thornton on the first power-play and only the left winger spot seems to rotate.
In addition to the power play struggles, the Sharks finally started all six of their top defenders for the first time in what feels like forever. The first game back for everyone was shaky with assignment issues, a few soft plays and allowing far too much traffic in front of Jones in the last game. Look for these two areas to improve if the Sharks hope to get a win today.
Winnipeg Jets at San Jose Sharks
SAP Center – 1:00 p.m. PST
Broadcast channels – CSN-CA, TSN3
Radio: Sharks Radio Network
2016-17 Season Series:
First Game of the Season Series
San Jose Sharks – 25-16-2 (52 Points)
Home Record: 14-6-1
Key Injuries: Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Mikkel Boedker – Logan Couture – Kevin Labanc
Timo Meier – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko
Martin Jones (Expected)
Winnipeg Jets – 20-22-4 (44 Points)
Road Record: 9-13-3
Hot Players: Blake Wheeler
Key Injuries: Patrik Laine, Tyler Myers, Marko Dano
Mathieu Perreault– Bryan Little – BlakeWheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Drew Stafford
Shawn Matthias – Adam Lowry – Joel Armia
Andrew Copp – Nic Petan – Chris Thorburn
Josh Morrissey – Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom – Jacob Trouba
Mark Stuart – Paul Postma
Connor Hellebuyck (Expected)
1)The Jets young core is finally starting to take shape. Mark Scheifele, 23, leads the team with 40 points. Former Haifax Mooseheads winger Nikolaj Ehlers, 20, is right on his heels at 39 points followed by Laine at 37 points.
2)Brent Burns was finally held off the scoresheet against the Blues ending his four-game point streak. Burns continues to lead the Sharks in points with 44 and is tied for the NHL lead in shots with 167.
3)The Jets have their own key defenseman in Dustin Byfuglien. “Big Buff” leads the entire NHL in time on ice with over 27 minutes per contest. He’s posted 26 points so far this season as well.
4)The Jets goaltender tandem has been especially bad with high-danger and medium-danger shots on goal. The Sharks should capitalize on this with tip-in master Joe Pavelski and a handful of mid-range shooters like Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.
5)The Sharks are just 2-4-1 so far in 2017 and he Jets are 3-3-1.