January was a weird month for the Sharks.
Had they won in a shootout against the Kings on Wednesday, they would have posted the longest losing and winning streaks of the season, back to back. In the same month, and not really that far apart - they lost at home to the Leafs and the Oilers and then went on to beat the red hot Coyotes and the Canucks - on the road, no less. Up and down - not just between periods, but now in stretches of games.
One thing that happened in January is that San Jose Sharks put themselves in a position where from now on, every game is a playoffs game. Every point is going to matter when season is beginning to wind down and this much was evident in the second half of the month. Once the Sharks found their scoring touch, the intensity of games made me forget it was January - it felt like it was May.
True, there was that third period against the Kings with yet another lead wasted away. Two solid periods of hockey were erased by the lack of focus. But the team woke up in overtime, and came within inches of Couture's shot from winning. When they get back from the All-Star Game break, they'll still be on the edge of missing the playoffs, and the intensity of play will return. Or so we hope.
It's funny how all of a sudden regular season matters for the Sharks, and matters a great deal.
With that, I once again cruntched some numbers into my beautiful Sharks stats model to see which Shark did well and not so well in January. Here are my 10 random thoughts.
- Joe Thornton lead the team in points in January, with 9 (3G and 6A). If only he wasn't the worst on the team with -7 for the month of January (together with Setoguchi).. But on a bright side, he had a jaw dropping 23 takeaways. No one else on the team is even in double digits. Joe - keep doing what you're doing on the forecheck - it's beautiful.
- Dany Heatley had a pretty good month too. He was second in points (3G, 5A), third on the team in shots (34) and this is a surprising one - 4th among all forwards in hits, with 15. That's almost in McGinn's territory, who has 22.
- Speaking of hits, Douglas Murray continues to hit more than anyone else on the team, by a wide margin - some unlucky NHL fellows got crankschafted 39 times last month. Second on the team in hits in January? Devin Setoguchi, who had 30 of them.
- Logan Couture had another strong month, and was not that far behind Heatley on the stats sheet. 4G and 2A, 45 shots on the goal (best on the team, even having missed a game due to injury) and lead all forwards in blocked shots, with 9 on the month.
- Oh yes, when it comes to goals, Devin Setoguchi had 4, which tied the team lead for January with Couture and Marleau.
- Maybe Doug Wilson likes Ben Eager, but I don't think Todd McLellan does. Eager only spent an average of 6:10 in his first three games as a Shark. This is enough for the kids on the Worcester shuttle, but not too impressive for someone who's here to stay and play every night. I'm still wondering about that acquisition.
- Kyle Wellwood is trying to find his game, which is understandable since he did have a break between KHL and NHL play. But the coaches trust him with close to 13 minutes of playing time, which is exactly what Mitchell was getting before going down with injury. Mitchell was 36% on faceoffs in January. Wellwood is currently at 49%. I'd be concerned if I was Torrey.
- Jamie McGinn finally lost a faceoff. In fact, he lost 2 of the 3 he took in January.
- Did you know that Joe Thornton took twice as many faceoffs as anyone else on the team? That's crazy - teven with him getting kicked out of the circle almost every time. Joe took 216 faceoffs in January. Couture took 115, and Nichol took 99. Joe is second in faceoffs %-ge, with 58%, and Nichol, no surprise, is 1st, at 65%.
- In goaltender department, it was Niemi's month. He started 10 games, and posted 0.934 saving percentage. Safe to say he's our no. 1 goalie for now.