March 23 2011 09:12AM
Flames are in San Jose tonight and Pat Steinberg is going to set that contest up for us later today. Right now, I want to talk about a guy who probably doesn't get enough press - Joe Pavelski.
The Sharks are stacked with a lot of notable names up front: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley have all been 80+ point-getters in this league in the past. Ryan Clowe has stepped up and is having a career year this season while Logan Couture is one of the highest scoring rookies in the league.
That's why it's easy to forget about Pavelski. The 26-year old is a former seventh round pick (!) by the Sharks and his career high in points is 59 which he managed back in 2008-09. On a team of stars and superstars, Pavelski seems solid but unremarkable. The reality is he's probably the best all-around forward on the team. In fact, he's one of the best in the league.
That seems a far-fetched statement, but the Sharks big guns have been riding on Pavelski's back for at least two seasons now. Todd McLellan has organized his match-ups in a fashion similar to AV in Vancouver (although to a less extreme extent) with Pavelski playing the part of Ryan Kesler and Thornton et al. playing the part of the Sedins. This season, for instance, Pavelski has the second worst zone start ratio on the club (47.3%) and one of the toughest quality of competition ratings on the Sharks, yet his corsi rate is +12.88/60. To put that in context, Joe Thornton's rate is +10.11, he faces simlar competition and his zone start ratio is 52.8%. On the Flames, the only guys with similar possession stats are players who faces nobodies and start way more often in the offensive zone: Mikael Backlnd and Tim Jackman. What's even more remarkable is that Pavelski has been moved all around the Sharks line-up this year, recently spending a lot of time with Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell - a couple of third liners (at best). He continues to float whatever trio he lands on though.
Pavelski is on pace for a career season so far with 16 goals and 57 points in 65 games, but if anything his offensive numbers are understated this year. The Sharks suffered through a strong bout of bad bounces earlier in the season (which is why they were out of the playoff picture for awhile) and Pavelski was one of the guys afflicted. His on-ice SH% still hovers well below his team and the league mean of about 9% at 6.73%. HIs personal SH% is also a career low at 6.5% which is why he only has 16 goals despite firing almost 4 shots on net per game. Once all those things rebound, Pavelski will likely move into the 70-80 point two-way center range (fantasy players take note).
So, altogether: Pavelski starts more often in the defensive end, plays against other teams top lines and frequently skates with lesser line mates, but has some of the best possesssion rates on his team. The dude is a monster and is one of the primary reasons the Sharks are still in the conversation as one of the best teams in the west, despite the fact that guys like Thornton and Heatley have already begun gradually drifting away from being difference makers at ES.
Watch for him to be in the Selke conversation at some point in the near future.