NHL Trade Analysis: Minnesota Wild vs. San Jose Sharks

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NHL Trade Analysis: Minnesota Wild vs. San Jose Sharks
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Brent Burns told the San Jose Mercury News he has been watching Minnesota "hoping they would lose every game" after being traded

Over the summer, the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild were trading partners on three occasions.

In total, San Jose moved Devin Setoguchi, Dany Heatley, prospect Charlie Coyle and first- and third-round picks. In return, they got Brent Burns, Martin Havlat and James Sheppard.

While the trades seem to have worked for both teams, the Wild have to be considered the winners at every level.

With a young player and two picks, they should be able to get two future players. Sheppard is young enough to be a part of the Sharks for years to come, but Minnesota will get more out of at least one pick.

Thus, the only way for this to have been a plus for the Sharks is in the immediate results they may see. It is too early to tell—Sheppard (coming on the last trade in July) has yet to be healthy enough to suit up—but early returns also favour Minnesota.

Burns (subject of the first trade) and Havlat have played in 22 games between them and have scored 13 points. Heatley and Setoguchi have combined for 18 points with 14 games each (28 in total).

Of course, points are not all a player brings, but the Wild are giving up fewer goals as a team and scoring fewer, suggesting their duo has played a larger role in their efforts on both ends. They are plus-four and plus-two, respectively, compared to the plus-two and even of the players they were traded for.

More than that, The Wild currently own the fourth seed in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the Sharks. Last season, the Wild finished 12th and the Sharks second.

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The Sharks do not care as much about where they are now. They need to win games in late May, and Monday's effort will go a long way to winning the NHL's best division.

San Jose had a slow start and were out-shot 14-7 in the first period. Less than two minutes after Colin White took a bad roughing penalty in the second period, Torrey Mitchell was sent to the box for hooking.

Jack Johnson needed just 10 seconds to bury the five-on-three goal for the first lead of the game. However, they only got one more shot on the remaining power play, and the Sharks dominated the final 12 minutes of the second with a 13-3 edge in shots.

Three of those 13 shots found the back of the net. Patrick Marleau had a hand in all three; Joe Pavelski had two assists and Dan Boyle was in on two as well.

The first was a nifty move by Joe Thornton: he came around the back of the net, changed direction and banked a backhand off Jonathan Quick's glove. The next came less than a minute later when Boyle took a Ryane Clowe feed and shot it toward the net; Marleau fought for position to tip it past Quick.

The final goal of the second came on the power play late in the period when Pavelski's shot caromed out to Boyle in the slot. He slapped it home for his first goal of the year.

How will this game end?

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The Sharks came out strong in the third, with the first four shots on goal. Los Angeles countered with three shots, but a giveaway in their offensive zone led to a breakout, and Thornton was able to find Marc-Edouard Vlasic for a point shot that Logan Couture cleaned up.

 

However, White was not done taking bad penalties. Ninety seconds after the goal, he went to the box for a cross-check. The Kings needed just 18 seconds to capitalize on the error and they were back in the game.

 

The Sharks held on from there, with both teams getting five shots over the final 11:32. But there is no doubt that the penalty kill is a weakness going into the Minnesota game, and a player who takes bad penalties like White is a liability.

The Sharks' penalty killers can get to pucks repeatedly, but do not get them out of the zone. They would do well to watch how Minnesota gets it done tonight, because the Wild have killed 21 penalties in a row in their five-game winning streak.

One thing that has been better is their goaltending.San Jose has one of the worst save percentages on the penalty kill in the league, and starter Antti Niemi has been unimpressive overall (2.96 GAA, .898 save pct.). He's been trying to work his way into the season after surgery to remove a cyst on his knee.

Where will the two teams finish this season?

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Backup Josh Harding is playing like a Vezina candidate when he gets in—going 4-0-1 with a 1.18 GAA and .965 save pct. Nicklas Backstrom has been good enough to keep his starting job from Harding (4-3-2 with a 2.06 and .925). Because of the two of them, the Wild are second in the league in goals against.

San Jose is hot, too, going 7-1-1 over their past nine. They also have history on their side, having gone 8-0-1 in the last nine against Minnesota at the Shark Tank and winning six of the last eight between the teams overall.

Between them, Backstrom and Harding are 1-6-1 in San Jose and give up an average of more than three goals, while Niemi is unbeaten vs. Minnesota. He will have to play well Thursday, because even with San Jose clicking in the offensive end, they may find it difficult to score more than two goals.

The Sharks will also need to get that done to win because either Seto or Heater will light the lamp against their former team, and someone else will chip in. Look for both Burns and Havlat to get assists against their former mates, and Pavelski and Couture to score goals to lead this team past Minnesota.

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