March was going to be a key month for the Sharks position in the standings and momentum in general. The team was in 3rd place on March 1st, but the race for the Western Conference playoffs spots was wide open. It seems to be all but over at this point with just three game remaining for the Flames while the gap between them and the spot no. 8 keeps growing every night. Sharks responded accordingly, with 9 wins in 13 games, continuing to build on what has been the biggest momentum of the McLellan era.
This is what I love about the new brand of San Jose Sharks - they are not losing focus. With the exception of the 3-6 loss to Chicago a couple of weeks ago, they've been in every game, and dominating it for the most part.
The third period used to be the dreaded period for this club not so long ago. So many leads given up, so many games blown.
Now when the 3rd period comes along, the Sharks play it like it the last period of the season. Need to tie the game? No problem, Patrick Marleau. Need to preserve the lead? No big deal, Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Gave up an ugly turnover? Niemi says "No".
The same, by the way, can be said of the overtime. Remember what a frightening time that used to be?
The last March brought some unforgettable memories for the Sharks fan. The game against Vancouver Canucks on March 10th was what many labeled the best NHL game this season. Then there was a great comeback against the Kings on the 24th. And lest we forget - the 6-0 against Dallas the fricken Stars.
As we completed yet another full month of regular season of hockey, let's take a quick look back and highlight the key individual stats from that period. Here are your top 10 numbers.
- 19 points by Patrick Marleau in the last 13 games, including 11 goals. Don't look now - but he has more goals on the season than Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, and Alex Ovechkin.
- 17 points - here is another surprising performance by the man who used to disappear for long stretches of games earlier this season, Joe Pavelski. His 13 assist led the team. Remember how he only had 4 points in all of January? Welcome back, the Big Pavelski.
- +12 is the performance of Marc-Edouard Vlasic in March. Still the most underrated shut down defenseman in the Western Conference. That's 17% of the team's +/-, which is +68 in March. Sharks were -40 in January.
- 35 blocked shots - is how many shots Ian White blocked in March. That's 11 more than the next guy, again, Vlasic, and 12 more than Douglas Murray. White had a pretty good month offensively too - 6 points in 13 games. Now that he's learned the McLellan's system, White is quickly becoming one of the key players on this team. I hope Plank now sleeps at night.
- 49 hits by Douglas Murray lead the team in March, which is no news to anybody who ever watched a Sharks game. Ryane Clowe was second with 28, again, a no-brainer. But did you know that 3rd on the team was Patrick Marleau, with 25? Or that Heatley was 4th, with 24? That one shocked me. I remember the elbow, but I don't remember too many hits. I'll have to watch the games more carefully.
- 1:14 ice time shorthanded is what Joe Thornton was doing out there on an average night. That's pretty consistent with what he's been doing all season, as McLellan trusts the Big Man with more defense now. The evolution of his two-way game this season is something that is worth a separate article, which I'll get to soon.
- 19 takeaways by Thornton led the team, which is again, something we're used to by now. If you know where I can find the takeaway stats for the league, throw a link in comments - my guess is that Joe is one of the leaders in the league in that category. Second on the team in March in takeways? Logan Couture with 14.
- 57% is how the Sharks did on faceoffs in the month of March. All centers on the team are winning a lot of faceoffs and were about 55%. This is how the Sharks are #winning hockey games, duh.
- 9 points are how many Torrey Mitchell had in March. He had 10 in the previous 5 months combined. What has he been eating?
- 0.9196 means another solid month for Antti Niemi. I hope he gets some rest before playoffs because he did start every game in the past couple of months. But if he doesn't, I won't panic.
The full Excel model can be found here (Sharks Excel Model - March), if this is how you spend your Saturdays.
At this point the Sharks don't have too much at stake as any top 8 team in the West is a dangerous opponent and a potential Stanley Cup winner. But it is still the Ducks who are in town.
There will be blood.
PREDICTION: Sharks win, 4-2, with goals by Wallin, Marleau (2) and Eager. Marleau drops the gloves with Correy Perry - a hockey moment none of us will ever forget.