It’s fair to say the San Jose Sharks are not a good team at this point. Yes, they are on a three-game win streak after losing the first four. They haven’t really outskated anyone in their wins, but they are competitive. And they’re improving. This early in the San Jose Sharks season, it is good enough.
San Jose Sharks Over The Carolina Hurricanes
In the Sharks’ most recent victory, they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes by a 5-2 score. The Sharks finished the opening period with a 3-1 lead and it could have been even more lopsided. Canes goalie James Reimer made one save with his glove nearly over the goal line and another possible goal was (very questionably) ruled to have gone in following a highstick, therefore disallowed. Evander Kane authored a hat trick in the period, the first time a Sharks player had one in the opening period in franchise history.
For those looking only at the scoreboard, it seemed all was going right for San Jose in period one. But it was Carolina who dominated the period in most ways. The difference was the Sharks buried pretty much every good chance they had and the Canes were held back by suddenly stellar Sharks goalie Martin Jones. The shot total favoured Carolina 16-7 and accurately reflected the play. A good chunk of those shots were of the high danger variety. Advanced stats also favoured Carolina. Their ‘Corsi For’ (CF%) was a strong 62.8%, their ‘Fenwick For’ (FF%) was a dominant 79%. Carolina dominated the stats, the Sharks dominated on the scoreboard.
The Sharks bounced back with a strong skating second period and extended their lead to 4-1. The final period was typical of a team with a multi-goal lead. The Sharks allowed shots, but few of any real danger, winning by a final score of 5-2. Still, the win came despite being outskated.
The Building Sharks
What happened in San Jose to enable the turnaround? For starters, the team steadily added, well, starters. On the player front, they added Erik Karlsson to the line-up in game 2, Evander Kane returned for game 4, Patrick Marleau arrived in game 5, an injured Tim Heed recovered to re-join the line-up for game 6 and Marcus Sorensen recovered to re-join the line-up for game 7. Youngsters Dylan Gambrell and Mario Ferraro are looking more effective in their roles. The roster is strengthening.
However, the roster wasn’t really the problem in the early going. It was veteran players making mistakes that hurt the team. Now there are fewer mistakes.
San Jose Sharks Making Strides
Game by game, it seems some facet of the Sharks game has returned.
Odd man rushes against the Sharks were a staple of the four-game losing streak. They were a problem even in the team’s initial win over the Chicago Blackhawks. But the Sharks were far better in the two most recent wins. The power play was abysmal to start the season but became a key asset in the win over Carolina. Netminding was sketchy, but Jones found his game in wins over Carolina and before that, over the Calgary Flames.
Last season, we identified behind the net play as an essential element to the team’s success. They have gone behind the net more, starting in Chicago and the results are showing. The forecheck intensity is higher and it, too, is generating results.
The lone area which has been solid since the beginning is the penalty kill and it has been special. It was most special killing off a second period 5-on-3 opportunity for the Canes.
For the Sharks, building blocks are starting to fall in place. Penalty killing, power plays, limiting odd-man rushes, solid goaltending, a more complete roster and smarter offensive zone play are all part of the Sharks increased competitiveness.
There is still plenty to do. Early in a season, few teams are ‘firing on all cylinders’. A team that gets a lot right and doesn’t hurt itself too much with the things it does wrong can do just fine. This is the state of the Sharks, heading in their eighth game of the season. A few elements work on a given night. Sometimes this proves enough to win an early season game against an opponent also in the process of figuring things out.
The team record is 3-4-0. Still, mediocre, but the deep hole some feared the team was digging for itself at 0-4-0 is now a lot shallower.
The Sharks are where they need to be. Improving, adding elements to their game and finding their stride. A lot can go wrong, but for now, they’ve gotten back on track. They don’t need to be a great team now. They need to improve. In the early going the San Jose Sharks season, they are doing just that.
Embed from Getty Images