Shark-Infested Blogger

April 26, 2010 8:00 PM

Sharks Series Grades: Goalies and Blueline

In a series in which the Sharks gave up only 11 goals in six games, you would expect the grades here to be quite high. Of course, the blueline is also responsible for creating offence, and one must consider certain variables...

Colorado might have been the sixth-ranked offence in the regular season, but they were without top-six forwards Peter Mueller and David Jones for the entire series, and other top forwards such as career sharp-shooter Milan Hejduk and Kevin Porter missed more than half the series. They also rely very heavily on three rookies.

Still, the Avalanche was deep enough at forward to activate playoff veteran and scoring threat Marek Svatos when Hejduk went down--a pretty good replacement. Moreover, there was no shortage of players to fill in for the likes of Porter, with coach Joe Sacco going to Chris Durno and Ryan Stoa, and even Matt Hendricks was a pretty good replacement for Mueller.

Meanwhile, the Sharks were missing only Stanley Cup champion Niclas Wallin for most of the series, but did not have to go beyond seven-deep on defence; Evgeni Nabokov played every minute of the series for the Sharks. Thus, such an advantage will moderate the defence's success slightly...

Dan Boyle: A

Enough about the fluke goal in overtime of Game Three. It was tipped in by Ryan O'Reilly, not shot in by Boyle. Could he have been a bit more careful with the pass? Perhaps, but Evgeni Nabokov is much more to blame than Boyle for not fully protecting the post, and Douglas Murray shares some responsibility for dropping it off to Boyle poorly enough to leave him under pressure and then not giving his partner a clearer passing lane.

Boyle's two goals are tied for second among defencemen, and the only player ahead of him (Drew Doughty) is out of the playoffs. His four assists are tied for fifth at his position, and his six points trail only Doughty's seven. He is also a plus-5, good for sixth in the league along the blueline. He has done everything the Sharks could have asked.4254754010_076f4967bd.jpg

Evgeni Nabokov: B+

Nabby has a 1.76 GAA and .926 save percentage, and gave up five of his 11 goals in one bad game the Sharks still won because he rose to the occasion in overtime. Hs sub-.900 save percentage in the closeout game (.889) was better than that percentage would indicate, but someone who has a game with a sub-.800 save percentage cannot get an A without an otherwise near-perfect series.

However, many of his saves have been of the acrobatic variety, and three of his goals yielded were of the fluke variety--the aforementioned tipped pass, a shot off Rob Blake's skate, and another clear attempt in which Blake shot the puck of his defencemate Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Moreover, he has played this well despite long stretches of no action: San Jose gave up just 17 shots in Game Three despite overtime, just 18 in Game Six, and just 22 in the overtime win in Game Four.

Douglas Murray: B

Statistically, Murray had a remarkably strong series. He has a goal, four assists, and a plus-four rating. However, his goal was an empty netter, and he was notably responsible for three goals in the series because he failed to cover his space. This (and hitting, of which he did okay but not exceptionally) is what Murray is paid for, and he will not receive a high grade for essentially riding Boyle's coattails.

This is not to say he did not earn his assists: Murray did a surprisingly good job of pinching in and keeping pucks alive. However, many people are enamoured with point totals and even plus-minus, while in reality these stats were largely attributable to the "second" line and Boyle.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic: B-

Pickles did nothing special in this series, garnering only one assist and a plus-one rating. However, he was his usual steady self and reliable getting the puck out of the zone, a key reason the team did not give up many shots and controlled the play.

Kent Huskins: C+

Huskins showed why the team signed him in the off-season. He might not have had any points and was one of two players to finish in the minus (one), but he steadied rookie defenceman Jason Demers for five games and protected the puck well. He also made a key block in the third period of a clinching Game Six, and was one of the team's better shot-blockers throughout the series--true, that's roughly equivalent to being one of the best shot-blocking point guards in the NBA, but it is something.

Rob Blake: C

The captain was a leader out there, and had both a goal and an assist to go with a decent plus-one rating, but one cannot discount that he cost the team an "own goal" in both Game One and Game Two. They may not have been entirely his fault, but a player with his leadership and experience has to take care when clearing a puck (why shoot it at all toward one's goalline?), and one would hope could react to a puck toward his feet better. If one of these happens, it is a fluke; if they result in consecutive goals, the player must take some blame.

Niclas Wallin: C-

Wallin played in only 14:29 of one game, so one might give him an incomplete. However, he did at best what was expected of him and nothing more: even rating, no blocks, no points, one hit, two giveaways...not very good.

Jason Demers: C-

In his first playoff action, Demers had just one assist and a minus-one rating. He played Game One as a fourth-line forward except on the power play (which he was on quite a bit in the series, a reason he should have had more points), but spent the rest of the time on the third pair.

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