NHL PLAYOFFS 2013: San Jose Sharks – Last chance saloon?

sharks 2013 2

As we get closer to the playoffs, IceNationUK will be taking a look at each team’s roster as they clinch a spot in the postseason.

Next, the San Jose Sharks.

SEASON LOWDOWN

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com.

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com.

Widely regarded to be at the very end of their window of opportunity to be genuine contenders for the Stanley Cup, the Sharks certainly aren’t the powerhouse regular season team they had been for several years.  That said, they stunned everybody by going on a 7 game winning streak to begin the season, led by veteran scorer Patrick Marleau who went on an unbelievable goal-scoring streak.  The team was on fire, and had many people withdrawing their previous doubts about the team.  And then February happened.  The team didn’t win another game until February 19th, and ultimately ended the month an extremely poor 2-6-4, their previous luck swinging in the opposite direction.

Things improved in March, as they went 8-5-2, including an impressive 5-0-1 record at home and a 4 game winning streak to end the month.  That streak continued on into the first 3 games in April, and the team finished the month 8-5-1.

2012/13 Season Team Stats (to date):

48 Games – 25 Wins – 16 Losses – 7 OT Losses – 57 Points

Goals For = 124

Goals Against = 116

Goal Differential = +8

Home Record = 17-2-5

Away Record = 8-14-2

CURRENT LINEUP

Forwards:

PATRICK MARLEAU – LOGAN COUTURE – MARTIN HAVLAT

TJ GALIARDI – JOE THORNTON – BRENT BURNS

RAFFI TORRES – JOE PAVELSKI – TOMMY WINGELS

ANDREW DESJARDINS – JAMES SHEPPARD – ADAM BURISH

Defence:

MATT IRWIN – DAN BOYLE

BRAD STUART – MATT TENNYSON

MARC-EDOUARD VLASIC – JUSTIN BRAUN

Goal:

ANTTI NIEMI

THOMAS GREISS

EXTRA: TIM KENNEDY,  MATT PELECH, SCOTT HANNAN

INJURED: SCOTT GOMEZ, FRAZER MCLAREN, JASON DEMERS

TOP SCORERS

SHARKS TOP SCORERS 2013

EVALUATION

Logan Couture battles against the Ducks.  Image courtesy of usatoday.com.

Logan Couture battles against the Ducks. Image courtesy of usatoday.com.

Patrick Marleau started the season on a tear, ripping the league apart with 8 goals in his first 4 games – becoming the first player since Cy Denneny in 1917/18 to open a season with four consecutive multi-goal games.  However, he soon cooled off, but did continue to provide a fairly decent amount of offence over the course of the season.  He does look to slowing down overall, but he did score his 400th career goal this year, a great accomplishment particularly in a lower era of scoring.  Logan Couture reached the 20 goal plateau for the third straight season, and whilst not having a dominant offensive season still looked pretty good.  He’s a dominant player against tough competition, and is an occasional PK performer.  A top young player.  Martin Havlat has seen his offensive numbers significantly decline as he inches towards his mid-30s.  He’s still sublimely skilled however, and dominates competition at 5v5, and hence still a very useful top 9 option.

TJ Galiardi has recently found himself playing with the likes of Joe Thornton, which frankly is a bit above his station.  He can chip in the odd goal and can play a small amount on the PK, but isn’t a great performer at 5v5.  Joe Thornton is still an absolutely phenomenal playmaker, proved by the fact that despite him suffering from a low shooting percentage, he still led the team in scoring and finished just outside the top 30 in NHL scoring.  He dominates relatively tough 5v5 minutes, and shows no signs of relinquishing his title of number 1 center just yet.  Brent Burns has alternated from defence to right wing this year, as he has for much of his career, displaying some nice versatility depending on team needs.  He is offensively talented, and defensively pretty responsible, although he is placed in prime offensive situations which helps him succeed.  Plus of course, he has decided to live out his life as a Grizzly Adams tribute act.  Seriously, that beard is something else.

Raffi Torres provides an intense physical presence.  Image courtesy of sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com.

Raffi Torres provides an intense physical presence. Image courtesy of sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com.

Raffi Torres, acquired from Phoenix at the deadline, was a smart pickup.  He is a highly effective third liner, providing a mix of scoring ability, physical play and agitating skills, along with being reliable defensively.  He also has a lot of playoff experience, so is a nice addition to the squad.  Like much of the Sharks offensive talent, Joe Pavelski has struggled a bit on offence, though not too badly.  Taking on tough competition and coming out ahead, Pavelski is a very good top six forward who offers great skills in all areas of the game.  Tommy Wingels is a fairly competent third liner, who can play limited minutes in all situations, but hasn’t performed particularly well at 5v5, albeit playing tough competition.

Andrew Desjardins is a marginal NHLer, who’s scoring has dropped off this year despite playing by far the easiest minutes on the team.  He does have value as a PKer, but the team would be better off not having him as a regular in all likelihood.  James Sheppard has all the tools to be an effective NHL forward, but he just can’t seem to make it work.  He is offensively a non-factor, and is a massive liability at 5v5.  He also doesn’t get much of any special teams time, so I’m not really sure why he’s a regular on this team.  If Scott Gomez was healthy, he likely wouldn’t be.  Adam Burish is basically a right wing version of Desjardins, offering PK ability and physicality but not much else.

Scott Gomez, when healthy, has been pretty proficient for the team this year, finally set free from his Canadiens contract.  He’s put up points and been pretty solid at 5v5 play in fairly limited minutes.  Once he gets healthy, he’ll be a positive player to have back in the lineup.

Dan Boyle looks to pass to Marc-Edouard Vlasic.  Image courtesy of fearthefin.com.

Dan Boyle looks to pass to Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Image courtesy of fearthefin.com.

Matt Irwin has been a minor-revelation in the NHL this year.  The 25 year old rookie has chipped in offensively, been a solid 5v5 performer in relatively sheltered minutes, and has just generally shown himself to be a very competent NHLer.  Dan Boyle is a quality offensive defenceman, who outperforms relatively easy competition at 5v5 but plays heavy minutes in all situations.  A very valuable player, and one with a history of playoff success.

Brad Stuart, in his first season back in San Jose after a few seasons – and a Cup – in Detroit, has not enjoyed great success offensively.  He has been employed in very tough situations however, and with very heavy PK time, so his value is almost purely defensive.  It doesn’t make him look great, but it allows more offensive talents like Burns and Boyle to shine.  Matt Tennyson is a recent call-up playing in his first NHL games.  He’s been played almost exclusively at even strength but has acquitted himself quite well, putting up 2 assists in 4 games.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a highly underrated defenceman.  His scoring has taken a hit this year, but his ability to take on the toughest competition on the team with 46% offensive zonestarts and still dominate in shot attempt differential is nothing short of exceptional.  Plays heavy PK minutes and stays healthy, so all in all is a top notch defensive defender.  Justin Braun is a fairly prototypical bottom pairing defender, offering a small amount of scoring, some special teams ability, and not being a liability at 5v5.  Can’t ask for much more.

Antti Niemi has been quality for the Sharks this year.  Image courtesy of azcentral.com.

Antti Niemi has been quality for the Sharks this year. Image courtesy of azcentral.com.

In net, Antti Niemi has enjoyed a great year.  With a 2.16 GAA, a .924 SV%, 4 shutouts and 24 wins, Niemi may have finally put the doubters to rest and put paid to the notion that he is a mediocre starter in the NHL.  We’ll obviously have to see some sustain to be sure, but things are looking pretty good.  Thomas Greiss has been the primary backup this year, and despite only winning 1 game has not been the problem, with a pretty solid 2.53 GAA and .915 SV%.

STAR PLAYOFF PERFORMER

Image courtesy of csnbayarea.com.

Image courtesy of csnbayarea.com.

Logan Couture has had a great year in terms of goal scoring, and I think he may be primed for a very good playoffs.  He’s the future number one center of the team once Thornton lets go of the role, and has performed exceptionally well in tough minutes situations.  That’s a recipe for success in tightly fought playoff games.

PREDICTION

Despite having some great players on the team, the Sharks have struggled somewhat this year.  Their opening round matchup is against Vancouver, and it’s difficult to see them getting past the Canucks’ top end talent and great depth.  It would be great to see the Sharks do well in the playoffs, but it just doesn’t look likely.

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