Winning Play: To be or not to be
It’s easy to get overexcited during a winning streak, such as the one the San Jose Sharks are enjoying right now.
They’ve racked up six wins and counting after demolishing the Vancouver Canucks 7-2, completing an eye-opening sweep of Western Canada. They’ve overtaken the Calgary Flames for the top of both the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
Once again, the Sharks have the Bay Area thinking Stanley Cup.
Of course, unless you’re Tom Brady, championships aren’t won in February.
It’s funny how little a protracted regular season winning streak has meant in the playoffs. While San Jose is far from a historic run, it’s worth noting that the 16 longest regular season winning streaks in NHL history have yielded just two Stanley Cup champions:
As long-suffering Sharks fans know all too well, there’s no reason to get too excited yet.
That said, Doug Wilson has built another bona fide Cup contender. Here are a couple things to get excited about — and a couple other items to chew on:
This San Jose squad is on pace offensively to be the franchise’s most prolific. Through 57 games, they’ve averaged 3.68 Goals Per Game, significantly more than the previous franchise high, 2005-06’s 3.23. At this rate, the Sharks will eclipse 300 goals in the regular season for the first time.
On the other hand, a perhaps alarming number of skaters are enjoying career campaigns — alarming because the production might prove to be unsustainable:
However, there are no wild, wild outliers in this group. The veterans are recording seasons within a reasonable band of expectation. Admittedly, Brent Burns and Evander Kane are producing a touch more than the most positive of prognostications. Meanwhile, less-experienced NHL’ers like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen may simply be cresting with the prime of their careers.
Probably less sustainable is San Jose’s general health. According to NHL Injury Viz, the Sharks are the only team to have zero players miss more than 10 games so far this year. That probably won’t last. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who just returned, sat out exactly 10 contests.
Speaking of banged up, Erik Karlsson missed his seventh consecutive game last night. But he’s still projected to come back much sooner than later, and there’s an argument that the best team in the West is about to re-integrate the best defenseman in the world.
Something else to look forward to should be steadily improving play from Martin Jones. Since that pivotal victory in Montreal on Dec. 2, Jones has peeled off a league-leading 18 wins. Jones’s .908 Save Percentage is decidedly average — in fact, it’s 25th out of 51 qualified goalies (10+ games) in that stretch — but as many noted when Jones struggled earlier this year, San Jose is good enough to win with average goaltending. Anything better, as Jones has flashed in previous post-seasons, and Sharks fans could be hooked for a long, long run.