SAN JOSE- If you choose to listen to some pundits, the San Jose Sharks currently find themselves in a worrisome scoring funk. A funk that prior to Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime victory over Dallas, had them in danger of going into the Olympic break losers in six of their final seven games, oh my!
Now I’ll be the first to admit, ever since San Jose’s first round collapse against the Anaheim Ducks back in 2009, yours truly has been a glass half full guy when it comes to the Sharks.
Naturally, seeing the Sharks lose four out of five in a stretch of games in late February isn’t going to cause me to panic. Especially when you consider the circumstances. During this skid, the first loss came in a tight checking game with division rival Los Angeles that could have gone either way. Two nights later the Sharks nearly set a league record for shots on goal, while Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens set a league record for saves in a shutout with 59. To be upset with the Sharks performance in either of these two losses is simply absurd. And sure, they should have played better the next night in Calgary, but it was the third game in four nights after spending an enormous amount of energy the night before against Scrivens. They deserve a pass for that one.
Next up came the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, whom in my eyes, like in the eyes of many, remain the best team in the entire NHL. They lead the central division (albeit St. Louis does have games in hand) and lead the league in goals scored. Despite being incredibly beat up at forward and significantly banged up on the blue-line with Jason Demers sidelined, the Sharks beat the Blackhawks anyway, holding them to a single goal.
Sure enough, the entire Sharks roster laid a dud the following game against the Philadelphia Flyers. After a mediocre first period, San Jose were flat out dominated in every facet of the game through the next 40 minutes, losing by an eventual 5-2 final.
All that led up to the most recent win against Dallas on Wednesday.
Are there things for the Sharks to work on? Of course. Are there particular players who could step up their games? Obviously. But the big picture shows us that there is little to worry about. While the Sharks have gone through numerous injuries to big time contributors, their points percentages in their absences has never fallen below .600.
Early in the season the Sharks were without Raffi Torres (who has yet to play this season) and Brent Burns (currently leading the team with a plus-20 rating) for 13 games. In those 13 games they still managed a record of 6-3-4, a .615 points percentage.
Recently, the Sharks have played their last 23 games without Torres, and Tomas Hertl (injured on Dec. 19). Yet in spite of those injuries, which includes 15 games without Logan Couture, the Sharks have managed a remarkable 15-8 record, or a points percentage of .652.
That is percentage pace of 107 points over 82 games, which is a rate good enough for the Sharks have won the Pacific division in five of the full seven seasons since the Joe Thornton trade back in 2005.
And finally, in the 15 games since Couture has been out, including three without Jason Demers, the Sharks have gone 9-6, for a .600 points percentage. In other words, even without Couture, Hertl, and Torres, (an entire second line of forwards missing) the Sharks are STILL playing at rate of a guaranteed playoff team. That record over 82 games would give them 98 points which has always been enough to qualify for the playoffs. No team has ever reached 98 points and failed to make the playoffs.
Numerous pundits out there, some who still can’t seem to comprehend how a top-9 forward can be playing well during a goal drought, will try and tell you that the Sharks don’t have the depth to get by in the playoffs. That simply isn’t the case. As mentioned above, if you extrapolate the Sharks record over 23 games without Hertl and Torres over 82 games, it would be a record good enough to have won the Pacific division in five of the last 7 full NHL seasons.
When you take into consideration the Olympic break should allow both Torres and Couture to return 100% healthy for the final 23 games of the regular season, it seems silly for anyone to be remotely worried about the team’s current performance.
They are currently playing through a multitude of major injuries and even with the ups and downs have managed a phenomenal record while being a tough, tough out for even the best teams in the league.
As a Sharks fan, how can you possibly ask for more than that? They have remained a top team while being injury riddled and are bound to get some reinforcements back after the break. If you ask me, things are looking very bright for the Sharks.
For more on the Sharks follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch