The San Jose Sharks entered this season coming off another heart braking playoff exit. Based on their start however, it seems that rather than dwelling on the past, they are using it to their advantage. They have started the season playing the same way that nearly pushed them to the third round of the playoffs last year; with speed and aggression! From top to bottom almost every player has
speed, and the Shark’s are using it to their advantage. Three games is a small sample size, but this is the least amount of time I have ever seen the Sharks spend in their own zone. Players like Douglas Murray and Michael Handzus aren’t here anymore to slow them down. This year’s team retrieves the puck and moves it up ice, allowing their talented offense to take over.
As important as it’s been, speed alone has not accounted for the Sharks early success. However, if you add speed into a team with great chemistry and a shoot first mindset, pucks will find the back of the net. From watching the Sharks it seems like their lines have been playing together for years, not three games. Lines one through four are playing without hesitation, and with an awareness of where their line mates are and what they are doing. The Sharks expected their first two lines to put up points this season but if third and fourth line players such as Andrew Desjardins and Matthew Nieto continue to throw in multiple point games, that’s a great sign for the offense.
Another great sign for this offense is a guy (kid?) you may have heard of named Tomas Hertl. I predicted that Hertl would put up 45 to 50 goals this season, however I did not expect 6 of those to come in the first 3 games! If you look at Hertl, he represents everything the Sharks want in a player. He scores goals, has a great work ethic, and plays the game with a smile on his face. Too often this team has hurt themselves trying to do too much because of expectations or past failures. Hertl doesn’t care about the past; in fact he’s only 19 and doesn’t have much of one. He cares about scoring goals and winning, and with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns on his line, he will get a ton of chances to do so.
As good as the Sharks offense has been, their defense has been equally impressive. They’ve allowed only four goals this season, with two of those coming shorthanded. This defensive unit has played together for about a year now, and they seem to have gelled.
I haven’t seen a defensive break down yet and each pairing is getting the puck out of the zone with ease. Not only are they minimizing the shots on goal, but they aren’t screening Anti Niemi when there are shots from the opposition. As good as Niemi is, if he sees the puck, he’s not going to let it past him. As well as the defense has played in their own zone, they have surprisingly, unlike previous years, had an impact on the score sheet. The reason for this once again comes down to speed, as the only two defenders to not register a point this season are Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan. Sure, neither blue liner has played in all three games, but it goes to show that fast skaters who shoot the puck will get rewarded in this league. Just look at Jason Demers, Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s numbers this year.
Although we are only three games into the season, it’s clear that the Sharks have an extremely talented roster that plays well together. Every facet of their game is clicking and there are no real weak spots on the team. Going forward, consistency will be the key to their season. Can they overcome the inevitable bumps in the road, whether its injuries or offensive droughts? Can they stick to a game plan that they know works wonders, and give themselves the confidence to overcome adversity? Only time will tell, but if the first three games are an indicator of the remaining 79, the next six months are going to be exciting.