Sharks at Coyotes Series Preview: Away at a home away from home

The Sharks will start their season on the road.

It’s been ten months since the San Jose Sharks have played NHL hockey. More than 300 days since we last watched the Sharks and now we’re in for over 100 straight days of hockey.

We know it’s going to be a weird season, but just how weird?

The Sharks won’t come home until at least February 1, if not longer, starting the season as a team with no home. Patrick Marleau has returned for his third stint with the Sharks and there isn’t a single Joe in the locker room. Every game is a four-point swing. We’re going to see a lot more of the teams we hate the most.

Oh, and then there’s the new normal of the COVID protocols and media availability over Zoom.

There’s going to be a lot of variance, and a lot of opportunities for things to go in an unexpected direction. Every season is a slate wiped clean, but this year in particular? It’s an entirely new slate. Playing hockey in the midst of a pandemic means there are factors outside of anyone’s control that will influence the season.

My advice? Embrace the chaos. It’s the only way we’ll make it through this season.

And if this season ends up in the toilet too? I guess I’d rather it be the weird shortened season where the team still has a first-round pick.

Bring it on.

Which Coyotes are these?

The Arizona Coyotes made it through the 2020 Qualifying Round, beating out the heavy-hitting Nashville Predators for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs — something that has eluded the team since 2012. They ultimately lost in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche, who have since joined the West Division.

Though there’s been steady progress toward the goal of playoffs over the last few seasons, they still don’t quite fit the mold of a postseason team. They struggled to score last year and while the old adage that “defense wins championships” has its merits, a team still needs some kind of firing power. Add in the departure of Taylor Hall, who the Coyotes likely would’ve loved to build a forward group around, and I’m not sure these Coyotes are in a much better position to score.

These could be the up-and-coming Coyotes as easily as they could be the team that makes you think they can do it and let you down spectacularly.

Which Sharks are these?

Of course, if we’re talking fluke seasons, it’s fair to ask the same of the Sharks. Normally a perennial contender, the Sharks of 2020 were the worst of the Western Conference.

And much like the Coyotes, the Sharks are marked more by their departures this offseason than their marginal gains. Of course, several players were injured over the course of last season and multiple years of deep postseason runs means the core group of players haven’t had as much time over the last few years to get fully healthy.

The Sharks are banking on comeback performances from the likes of Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson. They aren’t totally lacking in star power, if the team’s former stars can find a way to shine bright again.

Martin Jones, Martin Jones

Speaking of bounce-back performances, no one could use that more than Martin Jones. It appeared the Sharks will stand by their starter for the season opener. The team brought in Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild in the offseason for the final year of his contract, hoping for at least a true goaltending tandem.

It might also just be a change to say that they addressed the goaltending somehow and let’s face it, the Jones contract versus his current market value means they’re going to be stuck on that front.

You hope that with the extended off-season that Jones was able to change up his game, though access to ice during the various gathering restrictions throughout the last year certainly limited access. But if Dubnyk didn’t immediately win the starting job, maybe they’re seeing something better in Jones.

Goaltending will make or break the Sharks this season. Like it or not, it rides on Jones.

Bold Prediction: Sharks score six in the opener, but drop Game 2. Drop your bold predictions in the comments!