Sharks Gameday: Hit The Road Jack

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4:00 PST
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3-2-1, 7 points 2-2-2, 6 points
7th in Western Conference
8th in Eastern Conference
Television
CSN-CA, NHLN-US
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
On Frozen Blog
Japer's Rink

I've purposely held off on extrapolating from individual Sharks performances (until now at least) due to the fact that a) the season is young and b) the roster turnover from last season is bound to produce some varying results. However, with six games under the belt and a road trip looming, it's useful to take a look at the team at a large and see if there's some trends. And that's what we're going to do today.

Opening the docket is scoring occurrences through the first six games. Opponents goals are red, Sharks goals are blue; click to enlarge if you want to see the time stamps and periods those goals were scored in:

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You can read this two ways- on one hand, the Sharks are struggling out of the gate, as they have given up the first goal in every single game except when they were in Anaheim. In fact, if you selectively throw that game out, they have only scored one first period goal. Not the best recipe when heading on the road- with the benefit of having the last change, opposing coaches will be able to match their best shutdown pairing against a Sharks team that is fairly top heavy in the scoring department (more on that later). Last season the Sharks went a phenomenal 36-6-4 when getting on the board first, dropping to 17-12-7 when giving up the first goal. They posted an 11-12-5 record when trailing after the first twenty minutes. For the sake of my mental health (along with those luscious standings points) it's essential these early trends don't continue.

The flip side to this argument is the fact that the Sharks have been able to score in bunches, and do so when trailing. A positive sign? Yes, of course. Sustainable in the long run? We'll see.

As I mentioned before, opposing coaches are going to be afforded the last change in the next six games, and you best believe they'll be throwing everything they have at the top line- there's no real need to extensively gameplan for line two considering Ryane Clowe is currently a grocery stick and Joe Pavelski is in the midst of recovering from a left leg injury sustained against Anaheim. To illustrate this point, here's the scoring totals for forwards (sans Pavelski*), split up between the top line and the rest of the team:

*The reason I did not include Pavelski was to raise a point- San Jose will likely be without his services for this entire road trip, and therefore will need to achieve results without his help.


Even Strength Scoring Totals

Line Goals Assists Points Plus/Minus
One
5 7 12 +3
Two-Four
5 3 8 -5


Power Play Scoring Totals

Line Goals Assists Points Plus/Minus
One
5 8 13 N/A
Two-Four
1 0 1 N/A

I do want to qualify these numbers a bit- initially I was going to provide scoring rates per 60 minutes of play as they help smooth over the effects of ice time. For example, line one (Heatley, Thornton, Setoguchi) see 10:41 of combined power play time per game, while the rest of the forwards log roughly 8:00- more time means more opportunities to bang the twine. However, it's early enough in the season where raw scores serve our purpose as those per 60 totals can make individual players seem better or worse than they actually are due to small sample size. The plan is to take a more illuminating look after the road trip's conclusion.

Back to the tables. Patrick Marleau has put secondary scoring on his back, accounting for 3 goals and one assist at even strength- a cool 50% of the point output from the bottom nine forwards. That's horrendous on a team-wide level. Ryane Clowe needs to wake up right now because between the top line facing shutdown pairings all night and Marleau's historical goal scoring streakiness, the Sharks are headed for some dire straits if he continues his post-contract ways. Get off the sideboards and in front of the net. A couple more non-factor games and you might be better off signing Simon Birch to play on that second line. Kid's got resilience, let me tell ya.

As for the rest of the forwards, I haven't been all too impressed. The three guys you're theoretically looking at to chip in (Ferriero, McGinn, maybe Malhotra) haven't made a resounding impact to say the least- McGinn has been going to the box too much, Ferriero cooled considerably during the three game homestand, and Malhotra is in limbo between the third and fourth line. Recent call-up Steven Zalewski posted a Shelley-esque 5:26 of ice time against Phoenix. There's not much left to turn to besides continuing to run the Worcester shuttle (an aspect of this road trip we touched upon earlier this month) and hope that someone manages to make an impact on the scoresheet. I don't really care whether it's due to a fear of being sent down, or comes off a converted opportunity after being called up- someone needs to put the puck in the net here. It was an issue at the end of last season, an issue that concerned me at the beginning of this season, and an issue now.

This isn't to say things can't improve- McGinn, while running into penalty trouble, has generated energy on the forecheck and produced some scoring chances. Malhotra, while disappointing thus far, is learning a system far different than the one he played in Columbus under Ken Hitchcock. Ferriero, while spending a heavy portion of his shifts in the defensive zone lately, showed a lot of promise early in the year.

The season's still young to be certain. However, with a six game road trip looming, it's time that forward depth began to kick things into gear.

Hell, pot a goal early and kill two birds with one stone.

Prediction: Sharks win 5-4. Goals by Clowe (x2), McGinn, Malhotra, and, oh what the hell, Shelley. Secondary scoring shoots superbly six subsequent sporting stints straight.

 

Go Sharks.

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