With seven games now under their belt it seems like there might be no stopping the San Jose Sharks, but is this year’s team a real contender or is history likely to repeat itself.
The Sharks have started off the season a league best 7-0-0, a franchise record, but although this may be the best start the Sharks have had don’t hold your breath just yet. The Sharks have been no stranger to strong seasons or even post-season play, but as history as shown, it is once they make the playoffs that things start to unravel.
In the past five seasons the Sharks have never made an appearance in the Stanley Cup final. They have been eliminated in the first round twice in the last five years in 2009 and 2012. They were eliminated in the second round in 2008 and eliminated in the conference final in 2010 and 2011. All these disappointing post seasons followed regular seasons where they finished atop the Pacific division every year minus last season where they finished second in their division.
However, this season the Sharks are off to a roaring start and much of the team’s success can be attributed to the stellar play of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Anti Niemi.
Marleau started off the season tying a record that has not been equaled since 1917-1918. Marleau started the season recording two goals in each of the first four games of the season. He is currently the league leader in goals having lit the lamp nine times in the first seven games and totaling 14 points.
Thornton has also been the recipient of Marleau’s hot start. Thornton has amassed 14 points in the first seven games including 11 assists with most following a Marleau tally. If Thornton should keep up this pace he would finish the season with 75 assists and 96 points.
Pavelski, like Marleau and Thornton, is also off to a thunderous start recording 12 points in seven games. Pavelski will eclipse the highest totals of his career in a shortened season if he can keep up his pace.
What this line has also really helped to deliver is one of the hottest powerplay units in the league. San Jose has the 5th best powerplay, running at a 30.8% success rate and scoring 12 times. The trio alone has recorded 8 of those goals and has also been responsible for 4 game-winning goals.
Besides being an offensive powerhouse the Sharks have also been very responsible in their own end of the ice due in large by the solid play of goaltender Anti Niemi. Niemi has put up a goals against average of 1.95 and has a save percentage of 0.933 both of which are among the league leaders in those categories.
So, with a team that has been able to be nearly perfect in both ends of the rink thus far it would seem that the Sharks are an early favourite to win the cup. Unfortunately for the Sharks if they want to live up to this early hype they are going to have to prove that this time around they are not just a team that can have a strong regular season, but that they can also bring their stellar play to the playoffs.
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