With their 1-0 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, the Sharks now sit wedged in the middle of their division with a 5-4-1 record. Hitting the 10-game mark provides us with a sample size of where this team stands and what to expect from them.
Things I like:
The powerplay. Currently a league-best at 28.6%, the Sharks play with 4 fowards and the offensive-minded defensman Dan Boyle on the top unit. The size and strength of the Sharks’ forwards allows them time and space on the perimeter and the ability for them to get into scoring position. One caveat to their potent and aggressive powerplay are the amount of shorthanded opportunities given to the other team. The Sharks have surrendered 3 shorties in 10 games.
Antero Niittymaki. Niitty has been solid in each of his starts going 4-1-1 while boasting a 1.75 GAA and a 0.930 SV%. I was impressed with Niittymaki from the start of camp and feel he’s doing a good job in providing the team with reliable goaltending.
The big trio. The Sharks top line of Thornton-Heatley-Marleau have proven to be unstoppable when they were reunited by coach Todd McLellan producing 20 points in their last two games. It hasn’t been a secret to anyone that McLellan’s goal is split up the three in order to produce 3 dangerous lines and to avoid games such as Tuesday, where the line failed to produce and the Sharks were shutout.
Things I don’t like:
Anttii Niemi. I was pretty candid in my feelings about the Sharks signing of Niemi as well as how I thought he looked during training camp and thus far, it is as I feared. Niemi’s numbers are atrocious. I’m not confident in Niemi’s ability to succeed with the defense playing in front of him. As long as he plays this poorly, Niittymaki will continue to be #1 for the Sharks.
Aggressive defense. I don’t mind it when defensemen jump up into the play – when it’s smart. Too many times, especially during the Sharks’ losses, the defense got caught over-playing in the offensive zone allowing odd-man rushes when the puck is turned over. Another issue I noticed in Tuesday’s game against the Wild was when Dan Boyle decided jump up, Dany Heatley was covering Boyle’s point – awesome, that’s smart hockey. What I didn’t like was that Boyle stayed in the play when the Sharks set up in the zone and Heatley couldn’t play as a forward. There’s no denying that Boyle has offensive capabilities but I like my chances of scoring better with Heatley playing forward.
As mentioned in my season preview, the regular season is proving to be tougher than the past two seasons and I suspect this will continue. For the most part, when the Sharks have won they’ve looked great and when they’ve lost they’ve looked really bad. They will face-off against a hot St. Louis Blues team Thursday on the road before returning home to host the Lightning on Saturday.
About the Author
Written by Alex Wasserstrom
Native Californian, former minor league pro, and current men's league superstar, Alex Wasserstrom is ProSportsBlogging.com's San Jose Sharks correspondent. Wanna talk puck? Shoot him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow him on Twitter (@Awassers).