The San Jose Sharks are quietly hanging with the big boys in the NHL as we get set to come out of the Olympic break and resume regular season play on Tuesday night. The Sharks are in second place in the Pacific Division, trailing only the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, who have the league’s best record. San Jose is also right on the heels of the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues for seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
Is this finally the year that this consistent franchise can at least reach the Stanley Cup Finals? Let’s take a closer look at how the Sharks are doing it and where any potential pitfalls might be.
San Jose is a tough, physical team, and that’s again reflected in this year’s play. They rank fourth in the league in goals allowed, and that’s thanks in equal parts to solid goaltending from Antti Niemi, and good team defense that limits the exposure the goaltender faces.
The consistent effort the Sharks bring has produced good fruit on the offensive side as well. San Jose takes more shots per game than anyone in the league, and while that only translates to ninth in the bottom line of goals scored, it underscores a style of play that keeps them in control of the tempo.
Where San Jose is hurting is on the power play, and that’s likely reflective of the fact that no one offensive star is having a big year (something that also explains why the high shot volume doesn’t result in more goals). There’s good players here on the front lines, from Joe Pavelski to Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau, but no one has really stepped it up with big-time offensive production.
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The good news is that this means San Jose is nowhere close to its ceiling, and it’s down the stretch in the regular season and especially in the playoffs that the Sharks need their offensive trio to start producing. I really like this San Jose team—they remind of the neighboring Stanford college football team—just a tough, physical team that isn’t flashy, but is fundamentally sound.
Of course the one thing that held Stanford back was a lack of big-time offensive firepower. We’ll see if the same thing does in the Sharks come spring, but for now, let’s just enjoy the disciplined, quality hockey that this NoCal franchise has again put on the ice.