We’re already 10 percent of the way through the NHL season as the Sharks hold a very respectable 6-3-0 record through their first nine games. That’s nothing to sneeze at, particularly considering four of those wins come against playoff teams (sorry Columbus); but what’s more impressive is how darn good they’ve looked doing it.
The best news? There’s still room for the Sharks to get better. While they’re currently the best fenwick team in the NHL (their FF% is 55.89 according to corsica.hockey) their special teams is just starting to come together and Martin Jones has been pretty pedestrian to start the campaign.
San Jose currently holds the ninth-best power play percentage and 12th-best penalty kill rate, both of which started the season down at the bottom of the league. Those improvements helped the Sharks finally get a positive goal differential, which (slightly) more accurately displays how the team has played this year.
As for Jones, it’s still a work in progress. He hasn’t had to face many shots this year (that’s good) but he’s let a fair few in (not so good). His even-strength save percentage is at .9145 right now, which is closer to respectability but a bit away from where Jones wants it. He posted a .9250 last year.
Then there’s the possibility of Timo Meier joining the team midseason. He hasn’t recorded a point in two games with the Barracuda this year as he works back to full strength after mono sidelined him a month, but I expect him to be called up at some point. If he plays as well as I think he can, the Sharks’ impressive depth will only improve.
Moving Tomas Hertl to the third line seems to have done the job Pete DeBoer wanted it to do as the Sharks top nine looks much fiercer than it did to start the season. Playing Micheal Haley, he of a 3-0 record, on the fourth line isn’t the optimal roster but the top nine is good enough that it just hasn’t mattered much. It doesn’t hurt that Haley hasn’t been all that bad — he’s not the best option, but it could certainly be much worse.
The rest of the Pacific Division is a bit of a mess. The Oilers have started the season very well and, unlike the Canucks, seem like they may actually stick around in the playoff picture. Meanwhile both the Kings and Ducks have posted solid possession numbers but have struggled to turn that into wins in part thanks to injury and poor shooting.
All of this to say the Sharks look like a better team today than they did in June, which frankly is about all we can ask for. That’s not a guarantee of a repeat of last year’s success, but right now this team is a serious contender. I’ll take it.