Who knew that adding a 40-year-old forward and moving a defensive fourth-line center into a middle-six winger role would prove to spark the first turning point in the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks’ young season. It helps that the Sharks played games against a top-heavy Chicago squad and hosted two tired road-teams in a row on long rest. But you can only play the opponents they put in front of you, and the Sharks have defeated the last three.
Evander Kane’s first period hat trick was rightfully the headline. Three goals in one game, let alone one period is impressive for anyone in the NHL. At the same time, if you have a $7 million price tag attached to your roster spot, scoring goals is expected of you. If we look past the fireworks, there are other stories to which we were gifted another chapter against Carolina. The most uplifting parts of this season have been the pleasantly unexpected bits.
Mario Ferraro, the defenseman who only a month ago turned 21, continued his eye-opening start to the season. Among all Sharks who have played more than one game this year, the Sharks’ ratio of 5-on-5 shots with Ferraro on the ice is the third best on the entire team, after controlling for his teammates (Corsica) while playing with Tim Heed, who is at the bottom of the same column, though early-season variance may be inflating that number somewhat. For now, it’s an early sign that the Sharks might have someone special on their hands.
Last night was not the defender’s best evening this season. The signal through that noise is that his outing was not horrible; in fact, the Sharks have yet to be horrendously outshot with Ferraro on the ice at 5-on-5.
The other Shark who is making people blink and shake their heads is forward Barclay Goodrow. The anchor of last year’s fourth line, Goodrow played a strong defensive game during the 2018-19 season. Being solid defensively is important, but beyond that trait, the forward didn’t offer much. After changing his game to play center, Goodrow has moved back to his original, more natural wing position this year.
He won’t shoot 43 percent forever (or much longer, for that matter). What he might do is help the Sharks’ third line produce against many opponents’ depth units. On a team looking for any sort of revelations it can get its hands on this year, the ability for Goodrow to offer a positive impact in regular middle-six minutes is a step in the right direction.
At the team level, we witnessed much of what we grew accustomed to seeing last year.
Put your imagination helmet on for a second and pretend that the lumps of shots near either teams’ goal is closer to the goal than it appears in this image. There is something amiss with the way the NHL is recording shot locations this season, namely that shots near the crease are being recorded as happening farther out than where they truly occurred.
We see a positive development that has been creeping its way into this campaign. The right point, usually occupied by one of Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns for most of each night, is devoid of unblocked shots. That suggests the Sharks blueliners are not simply letting fly as often, instead looking for an extra pass or helping incite a forward cycle.
We also see a distinct lack of defense on the other end of the ice. San Jose’s undoing last year was that, for all its offensive panache, it wasn’t able to keep its struggling goalies from facing dangerous shots. There seems to be no shortage of rubber headed Martin Jones and Aaron Dell’s way, a truth that may haunt this team yet again.
After a horrific start to the season, the Sharks have calmed down somewhat. Generally, the team appears to be rounding into form, thanks in part to some unusual suspects. To reach its ceiling, team teal will need to rely on more than just a 40-year-old returnee, a rookie defenseman and a career bottom-sixer shooting lights out. This three-game win streak doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing from here on out — the upcoming five-games-in-eight-nights road trip will be a true proving ground — but it’s a sign that there is hope yet for an exciting season.