San Jose played very well in its season-opening win over the Kings on Tuesday night and among the many bright spots to take from this game is David Schlemko, one of the Sharks offseason acquisitions.
While Logan Couture and Brent Burns got the goals, Schlemko’s stellar possession game gives a glimpse of how much stronger San Jose’s blue line can be this year. He had a game high +17 corsi differential and looked absolutely stellar when he had the puck on his stick.
I don’t need to drag Roman Polak’s good name through the mud anymore than it already has on this website, but sufficed to say this is an immense upgrade on the third pairing. Brenden Dillon, unsurprisingly, also had a very nice possession game which I’m sure will satiate a grand total of zero of you Dillon-hating jerks.
Schlemko only put one shot on goal and didn’t have any points in what was a low-scoring affair, particularly compared to the other games on the NHL’s opening night slate. That’s not really what he’s been brought on board to do, though. He possesses some scoring ability, but what Schlemko’s greatest strength is his distribution.
For the visual learners among us, check out the above chart. Schlemko is in a very good spot here because he had a very good game while guys like Paul Martin, Brent Burns, Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty ... well, not so much. Some much-needed context: those guys played the best forwards and as such had worse numbers. Mind. Blown.
Still, we’re talking about the upgrade on the third pairing — not suggesting Schlemko should supplant Martin. The Sharks’ third pairing struggled mightily last year, particularly in the playoffs, and the team still came two wins away from a title. So when addressing the needs of a team, it’s key to understand the importance of upgrading anywhere and everywhere — even if incrementally.
It’s also worth nothing that head coach Pete DeBoer didn’t hide Schlemko, either. He got plenty of defensive zone starts, as evidenced by the following chart — also from the excellent hockeyviz.com.
That little red bar next to Schlemko’s name represents the amount of shifts he started in the defensive zone. That’s a fair number and he posted the best corsi differential of the game! Not too shabby!
It’s only one game, but Schlemko’s performance against a slow, heavy team like the Kings offers a glimpse into why Doug Wilson acquired him this year. He’ll be a great asset against the likes of the Penguins while also providing the ability to shred teams like Los Angeles.
Happy Thursday. L.A. has been beaten.