NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski:
The San Jose Sharks have built their success this season on a change in attitude, not expectations.
"Our expectations are always pretty high," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Coming into the season, we thought we had a lot of players that could give us quality ice time and produce. It was about getting the team to buy in together. That's the biggest thing I've seen."
It took awhile.
The Sharks, under first-year coach Peter DeBoer, were 18-18-2 through 38 games. They were sixth in the Pacific Division, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers, and were being propped up by a strong road record. They were a dreadful 5-12-0 at home. The buy-in Pavelski mentioned eventually started to produce results.
Video: NYR@SJS: Pavelski banks in give-and-go off Lundqvist
The team-wide attitude adjustment has helped the Sharks go 23-7-4 since Jan. 9, including 11-3-3 at SAP Center, where they play seven of their last 10 regular-season games.
Joe Thornton has 43 points since Jan. 9, second most in the NHL since that date. Pavelski and Tomas Hertl, Thornton's linemates, have combined for 48 points, including 14 goals each. The second line of Logan Couture, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson has combined for 22 goals and 55 points. Defenseman Brent Burns has 30 points on 10 goals and 20 assists.
Since Jan. 9, the Sharks have scored the most goals in the NHL, and also have the most wins (23) and points (50). They're in position to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday, when they play the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center.
San Jose had its streak of 10 consecutive playoff seasons end last year, when it finished with 89 points. The Sharks have 88 points with 10 games remaining this season and enter Tuesday one point behind the Anaheim Ducks for second place in the Pacific Division.
Video: WSH@SJS: Pavelski puts the Sharks up by 1
Pavelski talked more about the Sharks season and the cast of players making it happen in a Q&A with NHL.com on Monday.
Here are Five Questions with … Joe Pavelski:
Do you sense that the feeling or attitude around the team, call it "hunger" if you want, is different in this push for the playoffs from other seasons because you didn't get to the playoffs last year?
"Yeah, it is [different]. We had the belief coming into camp that we are a playoff team. It wasn't going to be easy to get to because there's a lot of good teams out there, but as you start moving up the standings, you just wanted to look ahead, not behind you anymore. That's what this team has done. We wanted to catch teams, not just survive. We feel we have a game that we can put on the ice to give ourselves an opportunity to beat anybody. There are key moments when guys make big plays and we really stick to our guns for what we're trying to accomplish as a team. If we can keep doing that, we'll be in games. We're pretty excited with some of the results."
Video: SJS@EDM: Pavelski tips in Martin's shot in the 2nd
You play almost every shift with Joe Thornton, so you would know best even if you have a bias: Has he, for lack of a better term, legitimately wound the clock back on his career this season, or has he not changed at all?
"You know what, I've seen him for a while now and I wouldn't say he's going any better or different. He's always been extremely productive with the puck. He's always put guys in good positions. He's scoring a few extra goals this year, maybe, but he's skating great. These are the things he always does that we see on a daily basis. I think it gets taken for granted at times, but he has really been on a good run and has been a big part of our success. Also a big part of it, and it's been under-discussed, is Tomas Hertl coming on to our line and really being a driving force some nights. There are nights when it's tough to get the puck away from him, he just has it all night. He's been big. He was a big part of the win against the Rangers [Saturday]. When he's going good, it definitely makes for a big line. He hasn't had the same ups and downs throughout the season. His second half has definitely been strong. He's really fit in well with us on the line. He's held on to pucks and made a lot of high-quality plays. We talked our way through it, but now we're at a stage where we're not talking all that much out there. We know what we're doing, getting in on the forecheck and not turning pucks over. Hertl has made some strides this year and he's found it here in the second half."
When I watch your games, the one name I always hear (Sharks announcer) Randy Hahn say is Donskoi, and I mean in a good way because it seems like he's always around the play. Why? How?
"He is. He is. He's always got the puck. He's coming through areas where there are two or three guys, and you just don't think he can really come through with the puck, but he's got it, spinning out, and he's making the play. He's a fun player to watch from the bench and he's a fun player to play with when you get the chance because he always has that puck and he doesn't give it up. You know you're going to have possession when you play with him. That line of Karlsson, Donskoi and [Couture] has been really solid for us. They've made an impact. You can put them out there and they'll be responsible and create chances with energy and momentum. They've done a lot of good things, and it's good to see guys get on the forecheck and play on the inside as they've done so often."
Video: SJS@CGY: Burns feeds Pavelski for game winner in OT
In what ways, if at all, has missing the playoffs last season changed the attitude of the team that still has so many veteran players who are used to being in the playoffs?
"I guess you go back and you just kind of look at yourself and try to figure out what you could have done a little better and some of the areas of the group that could have been better. Then there are the changes. We had a new coaching staff come in, and it freshens it up a bit. It was good to see guys come in and be able to put a lot of things behind them and move forward. We didn't have an easy schedule. We had lots of travel. And when we did have a homestand, we didn't make anything count early in the year. But we hung in there, stuck together that way, and it was good to see guys get it going in the right direction."
Speaking of the home record, it was 5-12-0 at one point in the season. It's up to 16-15-3, still below average, but considering where you were, it's quite a turnaround. What's fueled the change? Has there been an attitude adjustment on home ice?
"Yeah, a little bit. I think we definitely have a good connection with our fans again. There was just a moment when the team wasn't playing good and we didn't create that energy that you're used to in SAP Center, in 'The Tank.' I think we let that slip as players, and it's good to see guys get that back and the fans to respond well. Home ice obviously has to be an important factor for any team, and it's good to see the guys playing well. It was a weird case there early in the season. We just couldn't get any traction going. We'd go on these long road trips, come back for two or three games, and the first game wouldn't be good, so we'd be scrambling. It was odd. The next thing we know, we're back on the road and we gotta string together a few wins on the road. It was just kind of weird that way. But we've played some good teams at home here and we've come away with some wins, so it's encouraging."
Video: MTL@SJS: Pavelski scores two in win over Canadiens