Thearon W. Henderson
The Sharks look to extend their undefeated record tonight completing the second half of their back-to-back against the Vancouver Canucks
|2-1-1, 5 points||4-0-0, 8 points|
|3rd in Western Conference
||2nd in Western Conference
After dismantling the Avs, the Sharks now face a quick turnaround of 28 hours and take on one of the elite of the west, the Vancouver Canucks. The never ending drama of Luongo's fate continues occupy much of the Canadian media, and injuries to key possession players Kesler and David Booth had much of the fan base in Vancouver concerned about the 'Nucks beginnings. So far we've only logged a handful of games, which makes even fenwick close unreliable due to score effects. Lukily Eric T. has calculated score-adjusted fenwick, which comes in handy this time of year. Below is the current SAF power rankings. I still woudln't read too much into it at this time.
Score Adjusted Fenwick%
|1||St. Louis Blues||57.0|
|7||San Jose Sharks||53.0|
|10||Detroit Red Wings||52.3|
|12||New Jersey Devils||51.4|
|18||Toronto Maple Leafs||49.1|
|19||Tampa Bay Lightning||48.9|
|20||New York Islanders||48.7|
|21||Los Angeles Kings||48.6|
|23||New York Rangers||47.8|
|29||Columbus Blue Jackets||44.1|
(updated 1.26.2013 at 12:12 AM PST)
As it turns out, the emergence of Zack Kassian as an option to play with the Sedins has helped shore up the Canucks top 6, and it seems their possession game hasn't faltered as many predicted it might at the beginning of the year. Despite playing less than a handful of games (as expected) Kassian has generated quite a bit of buzz up north.
I was, again, impressed by his improved speed and fitness level, and his ability to make the smart play when making zone-exit passes (something he struggled with a year ago).
-Thomas Drance, Canucks Army
I think he compliments the Twins. Long have they needed that Trent Klatt / Anson Carter bigger forward to play on their line. I'm not discounting Alexandre Burrows and his success there. But it sure as hell is nice to have options.
-Sean Zandberg, 'Nucks Miscounduct
Vigneault decided to drop Burrows down to the second line, to help spread out his depth, although the success of this experiment is to be determined. If Kassian is the real deal, consider it lucky that the Sharks face the Canucks early in the year when Kesler and Booth are both out.
I feel like I have to insert an obligatory paragraph on the Luongo/Schnieder saga, but honestly, I really don't fucking care. In this shortened season, it looks as though EV Sv% is going to be something like 90% luck, 10% talent and truthfully from a Sharks point of view, both goaltenders are capable of elite level performance. The key as always will be traffic/chaos at the net.
The biggest concern with the Canucks is how to contain the twins. I expect that the Vlassic/Stuart D-pairing will get a heavy dose of the Sedins. Stuart has been very impressive to start to say the least. His ability to read the play has dramatically improved since his last stint in San Jose 7 years ago, which makes both him and Vlasic appear faster than they are. The question that still looms regarding the two is their ability to get out of the neutral zone. Limiting chances is great, but if you cant drive play into the offensive zone, you're really just delaying the inevitable. I'd love to see Vlassic/Stuart paired for D-zone draws, but perhaps breaking up the pair when the puck starts further up the ice.
The bigger question for most Sharks fans, much like a reverse of last year, is how long can we keep this crazy goal scoring up? I could run out the usual table-vomit and explain (again) the significance of small sample PDO, but that doesnt really matter right now. The sharks are accumulating precious points, and moving up the playoff ladder. As it turns out there tends to be large shifts in playoff probability both early in the season as well as late,with the middle games showing minimal shift. As a fan the great news is that this middle boring part of the season will be truncated, and we will move from the excitement of early season juggling, right into the playoff race relatively quickly.
Looking at the bigger picture, you can see how fortuitous the early start was for the Sharks. They've moved into a very favorable playoff position, mostly due to an enormous PP shooting percentage (thanks to a ton of 5 on 3 chances).
Tonight we get our first look at the Sharks playing truly an elite western conference team, which in the past few seasons has really been their downfall. The Sharks have largely dominated middle of the pack, and "rebuilding" teams, but have really struggled when faced with teams with depth and good possession numbers. Against Vancouver the Sharks won't be able to rely simply on the PP pulling them through the game, they're going to have to generate more chances at even strength, and do their best to limit damage on the PK. As good as the PP has been, I wouldn't want to rely on a special teams battle to win games.
Sharks win 2-0. Marleau x2, that Snark guy is full of shit, man.