Seeing a hockey game live is unlike any other sporting event because of the way it feels. The speed of the game in person is unreal and the sounds, sights and even the frigid temperatures aren’t like seeing a baseball game or a football game live. It’s an immersive experience that will make you a fan for life. I think that’s why many hockey fans can be reticent to the idea of detaching from that feeling when analyzing their team.
Who can blame them? That feeling is so good, why shun it? To those fans, I say fair enough. I’ll never tell someone how to be a fan of the San Jose Sharks, or any other sports team, but if you’re looking for a little peace of mind as you wake up to the Anaheim Ducks in first place in the Pacific I’m here for you.
San Jose has endured injuries to Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, David Schlemko and now Dylan DeMelo while the entire team sans Brent Burns goes through a massive shooting slump. Despite all that the Sharks are right in the thick of a division title race and are still in a favorable spot to grab the top spot in the Pacific at the end of the season.
The Sharks’ possession statistics suggest they’re an elite team right now — and that’s a team that hasn’t been 100 percent healthy this year. Once Hertl comes back, and we could be talking a matter of weeks, this team is capable of exploding if it gets a bit of luck. As of Thursday night San Jose sits fifth in the NHL in even-strength score and venue adjusted fenwick-for percentage (52.69). Let’s compare that to the rest of the Pacific.
2. Los Angeles (54.37)
5. San Jose (52.69)
7. Edmonton (52.08)
17. Anaheim (50.07)
18. Calgary (49.39)
26. Vancouver (46.85)
30. Arizona (43.75)
The only team ahead of the Sharks is the Kings and the only other teams in the ballpark are Edmonton and Anaheim. So let’s spend a couple minutes talking about the other Pacific contenders and why I think San Jose is well-equipped to deal with them this season, starting with Los Angeles.
L.A. currently sits in fifth with 46 points, six points behind the Sharks, despite vastly better possession numbers. Why? Well, for starters, Jonathan Quick’s little temper tantrum has left the Kings with a .9185 save percentage this season and Darryl Sutter’s insistence on L.A. never scoring has gifted the Kings a 6.58 shooting percentage!
This isn’t an aberration either. Here is the Kings’ shooting percentage at 5v5 every year since the 2011-12 season, Sutter’s first with Los Angeles:
So don’t expect the Kings to break out of that shooting slump any time soon. They’ll get Quick back soon, but it might not be soon enough for L.A. to be a contender for the top spot in the division. As for the other two teams in the hunt for the Pacific crown...
One is coached by Randy Carlyle, who has turned a very good team in the Anaheim Ducks into a team that can barely keep its head above water in possession and the other is an Oilers team on the rise. Get in a time machine and tell 2013 you that the Ducks are the bad possession team in 2017 and see what your face looks like and then show yourself this rolling average chart from hockeyviz.com:
This chart is so f*cking weird, man. Anyway, the Sharks are going to be just fine if the universe keeps on rolling like this. So chill out. Let’s all meet up at the Blues game tomorrow, even if you don’t have a Fear the Fin Night ticket. It’s going to be fun, alright? Cool.