The Sharks are coming off of a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goaltender Adin Hill played spectacularly, and the first line of Jonathan Dahlen, Logan Couture and Timo Meier combined for 4 goals and 6 points, an absolutely dominant display.
The 4-0-0 start to the season is their best start since the 2015-16 season, during which they made it to the Stanley Cup Final. In a year where nobody had high expectations for the team who’d been on the decline, it has been extremely fun to watch them compete at such an elite level — and they’ll hope to continue that today.
Their opponents in Boston are 2-1-0 to start the season, coming off of a 4-1 win over the surprisingly hot Buffalo Sabres. Brad Marchand is their leading scorer, with 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) through their first three games.
Linus Ullmark is the Bruins’ confirmed starting goaltender today. He has played just one game so far this season, the win over his former team in Buffalo. Ullmark posted a .972 save percentage (SV%) and 1.12 goals saved above expected (GSAx). He’s a consistent goaltender, so expect a solid performance today.
On the other side of the ice, we will likely see Adin Hill between the pipes, barring any last minute changes for San Jose. He holds a 3-0-0 record, paired with a .922 SV% and 0.85 GSAx so far. He has progressively improved as time has gone on, making numerous big saves in their most recent game in Toronto. He is the most reliable goaltender this team has had in recent years.
Can the Sharks shut down the “Perfection Line?”
The key to success for any team playing against the Bruins is simple: shut down their first line. The trio of Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron has been widely regarded as the “Perfection Line” among NHL fans for the last few years. The line dominates their opponents heavily every single game, due to their healthy balance of elite offense and defensive IQ.
As mentioned, Marchand leads the team in scoring, and Pastrnak isn’t far behind, with 3 points. Bergeron’s production hasn’t been as good as his linemates, with just 1 assist. His versatility allows him to still be an elite presence in the defensive zone, even when he isn’t up to par on offense.
This line likes to beat their opposition through transition, and loves to pass the puck around. The Sharks’ best match up against them is the pairing of Mario Ferraro and Brent Burns. Expect to see them get heavy minutes — it’s not like they aren’t used to it already.
How much does the coaching staff trust William Eklund?
If you don’t watch the Sharks often, you’d look at the line up and assume that William Eklund’s top-6 spot means heavy responsibility in San Jose, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Eklund’s average ice time at all strengths is 12:55, which ranks second-to-last of any Sharks forward in the top-nine, ahead of just Andrew Cogliano by a mere 17 seconds. Despite this, Eklund has scored 3 points through four games, and I would like to see him get more of an opportunity to prove himself against a relatively weak blueline in Boston, especially after playing just 11:19 against Toronto.
That said, Eklund isn’t getting the penalty kill time that other players in the top-9 see, which is fine, but worth cleaning up. The less time the Sharks spend in the penalty box, the more time for Eklund to do his thing.
Can the power play maintain success?
After a horrific power play last season, ranked 29th in the league, the Sharks have come out with a new attitude on their special teams and it seems to be working.
The team has score 5 goals through 15 power play opportunities, a conversion rate of 33.3 percent, ranked fifth in the league. The first unit of Nick Bonino, Logan Couture, Jonathan Dahlen, Brent Burns and Timo Meier have done their job solidly, but aren’t the main reason for the special teams’ success.
The second unit of Jasper Weatherby, Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc, Erik Karlsson and William Eklund has dominated on the man-advantage and always seem to score when their unit rolls out. Over 50 percent of the second unit’s points this season were scored on the power play and three of the players have only scored on the power play.
While this may scare some fans, I would say it mainly shows how well the staff has done to ensure that last season’s woes would not mix into this season, and so far, it looks like it hasn’t.