Going into the shortened 2013 NHL season, I predicted that the San Jose Sharks would finish 6th in the Western Conference, but I barely believed it. For some reason I felt like I might have been giving them too much credit.

Their two biggest stars, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aren’t old, but they both have a ton of NHL mileage on them, currently having combined for 2,204 NHL games played. I tend to think of the game as faster now than it ever was, and while they can both get around at a good clip, I’ve never considered either to be among the fastest in the league (though some have). I thought their production would start slowing down this year, and as they go, their team goes.

Combine that with the fact that I think Antti Niemi is fine but not great, they have a good d-corps and a couple other name forwards and yeah – playoff team, early elimination, nothing more.

Well, you won’t believe this, but my prediction may not have been perfect. They’re on a tear, and clearly more legit than I recognized during the lockout.

The San Jose Sharks are leading the Pacific Division with a perfect 5-0-0 record, and only trail the also-undefeated Chicago Blackhawks by two points in the Western Conference. Those “two big stars” are 1-2 in NHL scoring, both having 13 points after only five games. Patrick Marleau is first in goals by four, leading names like Gaborik, Hossa and Parise by putting up nine. He’s only the second player in history to start an NHL season with four straight multi-goal games, along with Cy Denneny who accomplished the feat in 1917-18. Thornton’s ten assists lead the league as well, and their liney Joe Pavelski is T-4 in the league with 10 points. Logan Couture (8 points in 5 games), Dan Boyle (6 points in 5 games), and Martin Havlat (4 points in 5 games) are off to decent starts too.

The team has obviously been killer at producing, as evidenced by the fact that they’re second in goals-per-game with a whopping 4.60 (to Tampa Bay, who is putting up 4.80), but it hasn’t just been quality at the one end of the ice.

The Sharks are currently allowing the lowest goals-against-per-game in the NHL, allowing only 1.6 goals per contest. That leaves them with the league’s biggest goal differential (+15), four better than the second closest teams, Chicago and Tampa Bay. Whether you want to credit Niemi or team defense, their starting goalie has posted great numbers early on, sporting a record of 4-0-0 with a .933 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against.

They’ve simply owned in every area of the game so far including even strength, where they have the league’s best goals for/against ratio. And on special teams (while it can’t stay this good), they’re first in the NHL with a 37.5% conversion rate on the powerplay. Hell, they’ve scored 11 first period goals in five games (most in the league) – 13 NHL clubs don’t have more than that on the season so far.

I’m still of the mind that the San Jose Sharks window is closing, but after an early glance this year, it appears way, way more open then I thought – we may just wanna keep them in the Cup conversation for a couple more years. It seems like the d-corp of Boyle, Burns, Murray, Stuart and Vlasic might have just propped that window open, and Thornton and Marleau seem intent on dragging the rest of the Sharks through.

Comments (14)

  1. “It seems the Sharks aren’t fading into the sunset anytime soon ”

    Yeah, the playoffs haven’t started yet.

  2. “neither were ever the league’s fastest skater”

    I thought there was a period of time where Marleau was regarded as one of the fastest skaters in the league? Even now I still hear from the commentators that he can “really skate”, “shows a great burst of speed in the neutral zone”.

    I agree with what is said with regards to age and mileage affecting the two of them but am I way out of touch with regards to Marleau’s speed and skating??

    • Yeah, I’m pretty sure he competed in the fastest skater in the all star game and might have actually won, but I don’t remember

    • Yeah, I thought that was… well… no better word for it that “wrong”… too. Marleau has always been one of the fastest skaters in the league.

  3. Everyone has such little faith in the Sharks. As we say every year, THIS is our year!

  4. At the end of the day, this is still the team that got squished flat by the Blues in last year’s playoffs. I doubt their ability to win two playoff rounds as currently constructed, let alone four.

    • How is this team so different from the team that made back-to-back conference finals? A lot of their team has two more years of decline, but Couture, Pavelski, and Vlasic have two years of improvement.

      • Pavelski is 28, Vlasic is 25. Those guys aren’t developing any more – what they are is what they are.

        The rest of the roster looks like something you’d put together in NHL 2003 when you wanted to go with a team of young guys (Handzus in particular was a staple for me in those days). Only problem is that it’s now 2013.

        Their goaltending is trending upwards for the first time in forever, though, so there’s that. I really like Greiss and think he could probably start for a few teams.

  5. JB, hope you feel better!
    Remember last year when the Wings were setting the record for longest home win streak and on a massive tear only to tank heading into the playoffs and then bomb out to a far better team? I smell the same thing on the Sharks. Age, injuries and fatigue killed the Wings momentum last year and should do the same to the Sharks. The only saving grace for them may be the shortened season. Not saying they are a bad team, they just aren’t this good.

    • Pavelski is probably at the peak of his prime at 28, and Couture has vastly matured since his era of being bounced from the AHL to the NHL. And Vlasic is done developing at 25?
      It seems more like the Sharks’ past generation of talent (Thornton, Marleau, Boyle) has kept their game at a high enough level to support the next generation (Pavelski, Couture, Vlasic, Burns, Niemi) and have reached some sort of critical mass in terms of overall team talent level.

  6. Three things to note on the Sharks so far:
    1. Coaching. The addition of Larry Robinson to the staff is huge. He has 9 rings.
    2. In 5 games, they have only given up 3 5-on-5 goals. That’s impressive.
    3. Depth. What is missed by so many people that don’t stay up late enough to watch the games is that neither Brent Burns nor Jason Demers have played yet. Both are coming off injuries and now skating with the team. Matt Irwin has turned out to be a stud paired with Dan Boyle on Defense. Add to that the Gomez signing, who really if nothing else is a “spare” forward, and you have laudable depth. At goal, backup Griess was a star in game 4, getting his first career shutout.

    The Sharks are the 8′th oldest team in the league (according to Mirtle), with a few of the older folk that bring the average age up (Murray, Handzus, and Gomez), playing much smaller roles now. They are also the biggest, ranking #1 on height and weight.

  7. I expect them to continue to do well until the next time they play the Avs again.

    Then I expect Bordy to injure one of their core players.

    Then we will see how they respond to a gaping hole in their lineup. Im guessing not well.

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