This is admittedly a convenient time to write this post, on the heels of the Sharks' most dominant puck possession performance of the season. But it bears mentioning that after an underwhelming start to their campaign as far as the underlying numbers go, likely fueled in large part by an incredibly road-heavy schedule, the Sharks' ability to control play has been trending up in recent weeks.
Score-adjusted Fenwick is a puck possession proxy that adjusts a team's even-strength shot differential based on the score. Teams that have the lead tend to get outshot and this metric accounts for that by weighing a team's shot differential in a given score state against what an average team's performance looks like in that situation. The result is a measure of possession that predicts a team's future record better than any other publicly available metric, including traditional stats like their current record or goal differential as well as more advanced numbers like Fenwick Close.
Over their first seven games of the 2014-15 season, through the end of their first Eastern road swing that concluded in Boston, the Sharks posted a 45.2% score-adjusted Fenwick that ranked 25th in the league over that span. In the seven games since, they've put up a 57.7% score-adjusted Fenwick; tops in the NHL since October 22nd.
Drawing far-reaching conclusions based on a seven-game sample is ill-advised, and it's worth noting the Sharks have faced the two worst possession teams in the league in Buffalo and Colorado over the past two weeks (although they've also outplayed good teams like the Canucks, Ducks and Islanders over that span). They're also only 3-3-1 over this stretch, dropping four one-goal games, so it's not like the standings have really reflected their seismic resurgence in possession. But if they're able to sustain this level of play going forward, it's a good bet the wins will follow.
It's difficult to pinpoint a single reason the Sharks went from looking broken at even-strength through the first two weeks and change of the season to looking more like the dominant outshooting Sharks teams of old more recently apart from the obvious factor of playing more games at home. Apart from that, James Sheppard has been a much-needed NHL player integrated into what was a woeful bottom six, Mirco Mueller and Brent Burns have improved with almost every game they've played together and the reconfigured Thornton line seems to be picking up steam.
Again, it's tough to declare the Sharks "fixed" on the basis of an improved two weeks of hockey. They probably aren't as dominant as their numbers over the past seven games indicate but it's also safe to say they aren't as bad as their start suggested. The biggest question now is whether the Sharks can sustain their recent level of play on the road after struggling away from the Tank to start the year. We'll find out the answer soon enough as they begin a seven-game trip tomorrow in Dallas.