Who are the San Jose Sharks?
At the 20-game mark, you can go a lot of different ways with that.
On one hand, they’re 6-11-3, a dismal start by any measure. They’re 25th in the NHL with 2.80 Goals Per Game. They’re 22nd with 3.40 Goals Against Per Game.
At .375, they have the second-worst Points % in the league.
“Our record is what it is,” head coach David Quinn said before their 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. “It’s just not good enough.”
By this standard, despite some obvious bright spots, like Erik Karlsson’s scoring exploits and the best penalty kill in the NHL, this is a bad hockey team.
Quinn – and granted, it’s his job as head coach to believe and instill belief – thinks the Sharks are better than this though.
Maybe you blame San Jose’s 0-5-0 start to the year largely on playing overseas? It’s not every day that a team begins their regular season in Berlin and Prague.
For what it’s worth, I crunched the numbers, and to some degree, teams do suffer in the immediate aftermath of starting their regular seasons abroad.
Of course, the Sharks went 0-3-0 and the Nashville Predators went 0-2-1 immediately after they met in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8.
Since 1997, the first time that the NHL began a regular season with games overseas, participating teams have a .500 Points % in their first three games back from their trips. But after these three games back, these teams have a .534 Points % for the rest of the season.
Now this doesn’t fully account for 0-5-0 – that’s the worst-ever start for an NHL team kicking off the regular season abroad – but you can probably cut the Sharks at least a little slack.
Meanwhile, they’re 6-6-3 in their last 15 games.
In that stretch, the Sharks are 15th in the league with 3.20 Goals Per Game. They’re 16th with 3.27 Goals Against Per Game.
Their 51.44 Expected Goals For % at 5-on-5 in their last 15 games, per Natural Stat Trick, ranks 13th in the NHL in that period of time.
They actually have the seventh-best power play (27.3%) during this small sample size, to go along with their league-leading penalty kill.
From this perspective, this isn’t a bad team, it’s an average one, and maybe even better, if you believe Nico Sturm.
“That’s at least a point. It’s extremely frustrating. They probably add up right now to about 10 points that we’ve left out there this year that were very manageable,” Sturm said of a Rangers tilt that was scoreless until Julien Gauthier tipped in a Jacob Trouba point shot with 6:03 left. “We could be somewhere else in the standings.”
The San Jose Sharks have 15 points through 20 contests right now. If you add Sturm’s 10, San Jose would vault to second in the Pacific Division behind the 14-4-1 Vegas Golden Knights.
That’s probably a little too charitable way of slicing it though. Even Quinn doesn’t think the Sharks deserved a point tonight, despite the one-goal final.
“I thought we sucked in the third period,” Quinn offered bluntly about a San Jose side that was outshot 16-4 in the pivotal third period. “Turnovers. We just didn’t play hard enough. There was no oomph in our game. There was no F-U in our battles. We were just soft.”
But there’s no doubt that the San Jose Sharks have left points on the table this season. Now let’s not count one-goal losses like against the Rangers or versus the Carolina Hurricanes or the New Jersey Devils earlier this season, where the Sharks were largely unexceptional in defeat.
But let’s say you grab a well-deserved point for well-played regulation losses to the Nashville Predators (the second match-up) and Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s say you grab victories in what were actually shootout defeats to the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks (the most recent contest). And let’s even turn one “L” upside down – the Sharks largely outplayed the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night and were undone by poor goaltending.
That’s six more points, 9-4-2 in your last 15 games, and a way different feeling about the team.
I know, I know. And for my next article, I’ll write about the 2019 Stanley Cup champion San Jose Sharks. Woulda coulda shoulda.
But the Sharks are keeping games close. Right now, they’re tied with the Los Angeles Kings for most one-goal games in the NHL at 12 apiece. But the Sharks are just 26th in the league with a .458 one-goal game Points %.
Turn that around?
“We don’t have far to go to get over that hump,” Quinn insisted.
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