Circling Sharks

by Chris Liggio on March 30, 2018

 

Coming off an eight-game win streak, the San Jose Sharks are surging at the right time with the playoffs in view. The league’s northernmost California franchise, they sit second in the Pacific Division with a seven-point gap on third place Anaheim and five points behind division leading Las Vegas. Evander Kane has been a force since coming West from the Buffalo Sabres, while also serving to remedy the absence of Joe Thornton. Coupled with excellent contributions from their bottom six forwards and possessing arguably the league’s best goalie the past month, San Jose looks ready to make noise at the big dance.

 

A point-per-game player since arriving in San Jose, Kane has been the best of any trade deadline acquisition across the league. On the cusp of the second 30-goal season of his career, Kane is delivering elite forward production for fantasy owners at the right time, with eight goals in his past eight games to go with an elite 47 shots on goal. Instantaneous chemistry with Captain America, Joe Pavelski, has the Sharks top line firing on all cylinders. Pavelski and Kane won’t be available on the wire, but Timo Meier has found himself in plum position alongside them and should he stick there he makes for an interesting play in these closing weeks. Meier is still young but on track to hit 20-goals and 200 shots this season. Next year is the year he will truly emerge I am betting, so have him on your draft radar in later rounds. 33-year old Pavelski put decline fear into the hearts of his owners for a large portion of this campaign, though he’s been above point-per-game pace (five goals, 10 assists) the past 14 contests. This should allow owners to breathe a sigh of relief during fantasy playoffs.

 

The first line will always get the love but the unheralded component to the Sharks hot run is depth contributions and top tier goaltending from Martin Jones. Jones we will get to but let’s give credit to the third and fourth line players making things happen offensively for San Jose. Chris Tierney’s lack of ownership is starting to become criminal, especially in these closing weeks where you need to dump dead weight for player’s producing. Averaging just over 15 minutes per game he’s provided two goals, six assists and 77 faceoffs in the past 14 games. Tierney finds himself lining up with Staten Island, NY product Kevin Labanc, who’s going to more than double his rookie point total by the end of the year. He’s shown streaky tendencies this season, currently mired in a cold spell but can rapidly get hot as has been the case earlier in the campaign. Labanc and Tierney can both pass and that kind of skill on the third line is dangerous for the opposition.

 

It doesn’t stop at the third line though with fourth liner Jannik Hansen doing his best to rectify a down year overall. Surely turning 32 years of age and his disastrous season prior to recent times had everyone thinking the decline came hard and fast. Yet a career 11 percent shooter was operating at under four percent for the majority of the season when played. Perhaps now after all this time the statistical correction is upon us. With two goals and three assists in the past seven games despite limited minutes, Hansen is making it a nightmare for opposition defensive deployment. He’s only a couple seasons removed from a 22-goal campaign in Vancouver so his ability to bury the biscuit could prove vital in time. Seemingly every deployment on this squad can score right now and any team with intentions of winning the Stanley Cup needs offense from all four lines. The addition of Eric Fehr should also be noted as it serves to shore up the bottom six and allows DeBoer to roll consistent lines without fear of mismatches. Also, he’s a great penalty killer that only makes the second best overall unit in the league better.

 

How good has Martin Jones been the past month? Try seven wins in the past seven games and 10 in the past 12. His .923 save percentage and 2.17 GAA during this timeframe atop the wins makes for tier one fantasy goaltending. One win away from his third consecutive 30-win season, Jones has cemented himself as one of the games top fantasy goaltenders. At but 28 years of age, he has several productive seasons ahead of him and should be retained in all keeper settings. Despite their daunting upcoming schedule on the road, Jones has put himself back into must start territory until proven otherwise. For Peter DeBoer to not ride the hot hand without a postseason berth locked up is unlikely. With Aaron Dell as backup though, the Sharks boast arguably the best netminding duo across the league.

 

Defensively it’s the Brent Burns show from a fantasy standpoint, as we’ve watched him roar back from a dreadful start already attaining the 60-point plateau for the fourth year in a row. Providing over 300 shots on goal for the third consecutive season, it’s been business as usual for the multi-cat star. Beyond him there is no strong fantasy play on their blue line though Dylan DeMelo has 10 assists in the past 14 games. Brendan Dillon can serve as a stopgap option that doesn’t hurt you in any category if in need of blue line help as well. He has seven points in the past eight games, but one cannot foresee this pace continuing. Alas if you need points hop on the train while it’s chugging along full steam ahead.

 

If the Sharks roster spanning contributions continue they are going to the postseason no ifs ands or buts. An injury to Barclay Goodrow will challenge the roster but surely his loss is not insurmountable. The signing of Dylan Gambrell can easily fill the void for the time being and upon the return of Joe Thornton, this team stands to potentially take it up another notch entering the playoffs. With 12 players scoring 10 goals or more this season, the Sharks have the scoring depth to take on any team in the Western Conference. Expectations are not extraordinary after a decade of contention without a Stanley Cup to show for it. Sometimes, not having the bulls eye on your back serves a team quite well. Sneaking in coupled with their aging cores thirst for success just might be the recipe for engraving their names this go-around.