Yes, we all know it's only the preseason, but...
With the Sharks starting the preseason 6-0-0, there's a buzz circulating throughout the lockeroom, front office and among Sharks fans everywhere. This is just the preseason, but many believe there's no better time to be a Sharks fan than right now.
For a team that has won three games or less in 11 of their 13 previous preseasons (four wins the other two), a six-win campaign is quite an accomplishment for this young group of guys. Although the record isn't what Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson and his staff are looking for in training camp, it does tend to boost the team's confidence.
"The main things you want to develop are a winning attitude, confidence and a style of play," said Wilson. "The style of play is coming; it's still a work in progress. Learning how to win and getting a good feeling about yourselves and where your game is at is important during training camp."
With skaters being able to move around and skate a little more thanks to some of the new rules, it was important that the guys came to training camp in good shape and ready to play. Based on the early results, the defending Pacific Division Champions are more than prepared for the start of the season.
"It's definitely good to have the preseason going well for us," said Sharks captain Patrick Marleau. "We have to keep building on the things we're doing great while learning from the mistakes that we've made. We show glimpses of moving the puck really fast and getting on the attack quick, but we still have to fine tune some things."
Two main reasons for the Sharks perfect preseason are the play of their goaltenders and their ability to stay out of the penalty box.
Vesa Toskala has received a bulk of the playing time during the preseason, registering three victories. In those three games, the netminder has stopped 87 of 93 shots for a .935 save percentage, ranking him among the League leaders. He notched a shutout in Phoenix on Wednesday, becoming the fourth goaltender (Arturs Irbe in 1994, Mike Vernon in 1997 and Evgeni Nabokov in 2003) in Sharks history to do so.
Wilson has preached discipline to his team, citing that the new NHL rules will, "reward excellence, punish cheating and won't cater to mediocrity." The Sharks have played within these rules, taking 17 less penalties than their opponents in their six games.
"We've learned right off the bat, and the players have taken it very seriously that there's going to be a change in the officiating this year," said Wilson. "We wanted to learn that as quickly as possible and fortunately we have. Now we've got to carry that forward and not let any bad habits enter."
Veteran forward Wayne Primeau, who notched the only goal in Wednesday's 1-0 victory, agrees with the message Wilson and his coaching staff has been conveying to the team.
"Right from day one of camp, the coaches instilled the new rules on us," said Primeau. "Everyone has taken that into consideration and tried to work on it and I think in the overall picture it's worked."
The Sharks don't plan to stop at six wins. With their last preseason game at HP Pavilion on Friday against the Coyotes, Team Teal will try to complete a perfect preseason and head into their first regular season game with momentum on their side.
"We have a great bunch of guys here," added Primeau. "We have a lot of returnees as well as a couple of young guys that have played really well. We're a young and fast team and with the new rules, we're going to benefit from that."
If the preseason is any sort of indication how this group of guys will play in 2005-06, Sharks fans will be seeing a lot more wins coming their way.