THE SANTA CLARA
January 19, 2017
After falling to Pittsburgh in six games in last season’s Stanley Cup Finals, the San Jose Sharks are destined for another lengthy playoff-run.
The Sharks strength is certainly their defense. San Jose is fourth in the league in goals allowed, at 2.32 per game. Goaltender Martin Jones has proved he is among the NHL’s elite, and can absolutely take over a game. Jones is seventh in the league in wins with 21 and has loads of talent in front of him.
San Jose’s starting lineup features two vetted defenders in Brent Burns and Paul Martin, who are both terrific at offensive production. Burns is the leading scorer for the Sharks and one of the best defenseman in the NHL with 17 goals and 27 assists; that puts him at fifth in points in the entire league. Martin is no slouch either, ranking sixth on the team in points with 15.
Although San Jose’s defense is excelling, their offensive potential cannot be ignored. The experience of Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton coupled with the youth of Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture makes the Sharks ready to explode at any point. If the defense can maintain its dominance and continue to limit teams scoring, the lethal star power will carry them far in the playoffs.
The Sharks are fourth in shot attempts percentage close, an advanced statistic that has proven to have an extremely close correlation to how well a team does in the playoffs. The statistic analyzes the percentage of shots a team takes in a one-goal game in the third period compared to how many shots the other team takes. Any number over 50% translates to direct success; the Sharks score a 52.43%.
The toughest competition in the Western Conference for the Sharks will come from Minnesota and Chicago.
The Wild represent one of the two 2001 expansion teams to have tremendous success so far this season, in addition to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and are an incredibly exciting young team. Minnesota has the top five skaters in the league in plus/minus, an absurd statistic for one team to possess. In descending order, Ryan Suter, Jason Zucker, Jared Spurgeon, Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu make up the core of Minnesota’s successful team. The Wild also have the top goaltender in the NHL in goals allowed average, as Devan Dubnyk only gives up 1.78 goals per game.
And after three titles in six years, no one should want to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs, at home or on the road. Some of their key role players have come and gone, but the core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook stay strong. Over the years, Corey Crawford has shown that he can be streaky over the years, sometimes unable to stop the puck at all; other times saving everything in sight.
It’s premature to anoint San Jose Stanley Cup champs in January, especially given the talent of the Wild and Blackhawks.
There’s plenty of great, stressful hockey ahead for Sharks fans, but there’s no reason why San Jose can’t win the Western Conference again before hoisting the Cup.
Bo Kendall is a sophomore communication major.