Sharks Gameday: The Devil Wears Prada And Havlat No Longer Wears Orange

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4:00 PST
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1-3-0, 2 points 3-1-0, 6 points
14th in Western Conference 7th in Eastern Conference
Television
CSN-CA (HD)
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
In Lou We Trust
Fire & Ice

First off, congratulations to Joe Thornton on the 1,000th game of his NHL career. It's a great milestone for a great player, and one that shows just how reliable he has been in the health department throughout his entire career. David Pollak of Working The Corners has more information on the subject here.

The Sharks are 1-3-0 right now, which isn't an especially comforting place to be in for a team that a) stated they wanted to start the year out strong and, most importantly, b) is heading out on a six game road trip that will span ten days against some good teams, with two of those games coming in back to backs. In a perfect world you'd want to have at least two wins under your belt at this point and have some cushion to deal with the havoc that hockey can throw at you in an opposing team's barn.

It's way too early to panic, but also too late for the losing to continue. That's a tough spot for a team to find themselves in early in a year filled with Stanley Cup expectations, especially when said team has essentially dominated the shot clock and wound up with two points to show for it. The Sharks currently lead the NHL in shots per game (with a cool 40.5 per) and are second in the NHL in shots against per game (23.5). That is the best shot differential in the entire League. The Detroit Red Wings are second in this category and are 4-0-0. Go figure, eh?

In other words, the Sharks are doing the right things correctly, and doing them quite superbly for long stretches of game time. The issue is that their first periods have been atrocious, turnover plagued events that have caused them to give up the first goal in every loss. When you spot a team a lead early they're going to sit back and allow those shots to happen, fortify the crease in front of their goaltender, and cut down on second chance opportunities.

People will always talk about how important it is to get that early goal on the road, and that analysis becomes fatigued because it's used so often. Considering the Sharks recent trend of coming out flatter than two month old soda however, it is relevant tonight. The Devils have historically been a team that has had a very good winning percentage when scoring first in a game, finishing each of the last three seasons above or around the 70% mark. They're off to a good start this season under new Head Coach Peter DeBoer, and look like a team that could compete for a low seeded playoff spot in the East-- at the very least, they'll be much more competitive than they were during the beginning of the season last year. This ain't your gimme two point game folks.

Jeremy Roenick has a new feature on NHL.com called "The World According to JR" where he goes through and breaks down teams across the League. His inaugural post touches upon the Sharks and Avalanche, and states how the Sharks have historically been slow starters but he still expects them to finish at the top of the League at the end of the season:

The San Jose Sharks are, in my opinion, still the strongest team in the League, but they are historically slow starters, so I'm not totally surprised they are just 1-3 heading into a six-game road trip.

There is no question in my mind that they will turn it around, that Joe Thornton will have another good year, and that they will be at the top of the League come the end of the season. But this is one of those situations where they have a lot of new guys, and they have a lot of people that are getting acclimated and injured.

>> NHL.com

Over the last four years under Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan the Sharks have had some issues with their starts to the year, but nothing that is really an issue. As the years have gone by the team has gotten slightly worse in October but have gone deeper in the postseason each year, which underscores the point that it's way too early to read much into the 1-3 record at this point. However, it should be noted that San Jose would have to go 5-1-0 on the road trip to equal what they did last season in the points per game department, which is not so much significant as it is an opportunity for me to show off my algebraic skills:


San Jose Sharks Start To The Season (October)

Year GP W L
OTL
Points
Point/GP
2011-2012
4
1
3
0
2 0.5
2010-2011
9
5
3
1
11
1.22
2009-2010
14 9
4
1
19
1.36
2008-2009
11 9
2
0
18
1.64

So yeah. They should probably try their hand at this winning thing sometime soon. People always ask us at what point the Sharks would pursue a deal in the early season, and our response is always "it's too soon to tell." With that being said, if the Sharks come out and continue to struggle in the wins department on this road trip after getting both Havlat and Niemi back in the lineup, I think it's a safe bet to say that Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson would be quite aggressive in trying to add a player and shake things up. Again, that's an early call before a six game road trip that hasn't occurred yet, but something to look out for as the games begin to pile up.

Martin Havlat makes his season debut tonight for San Jose and will play on the second line alongside Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. Benn Ferriero was recalled from Worcester yesterday and will find himself in the lineup tonight-- nothing is official yet, but some speculation on Twitter yesterday indicated that Desjardins would be the odd man out (which doesn't make much sense to me but we'll see how it plays out).

Expect Niemi in net for San Jose, Jonathan Hedberg between the pipes for the Devils.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Goals by Boyle, Marleau, and Havlat. A 78 save performance by Hedberg nearly gets New Jersey the regulation win, but a late goal by Havlat and the game winner by Boyle in overtime stave off Vulture Watch 2011.

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