With a quarter of the season in the rear view mirror the Sharks find themselves atop the Western Conference and leading the National Hockey League (13-4-3, 29 points). The Sharks also find themselves leading the League in goal differential (plus-20) and second in goals scored (67).
“Obviously those are some high expectations and high benchmarks,” said forward Manny Malhotra. “I knew that this was a successful franchise and had the ability to be in that position, it is good that we have met them so far.”
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Several factors have led to the success.
“We have got a lot of new, good blood in here and they are playing really well.” Said forward Patrick Marleau
. “Our forecheck has been really good for most of the games and obviously the goalies have been playing really well. Defensively, we have done a pretty good job and when you apply all those things together it usually ends up with the puck in the other end.”
Malhotra and Dany Heatley also commented on the importance of the team game plan.
“We play a solid team game and as you can see when everybody is sticking to that game plan and everyone is skating, we are a very effective team,” said Malhotra. “We play with all four lines, play our six defensemen and with Evgeni Nabokov or Thomas Greiss
in net, we have contributions coming from everyone.”
"This is a good team and I think we have played pretty well through the first 20 games,” said forward Dany Heatley. “I think there have been games that you can see what we are capable of doing. I think we just need to be like that every night and use our skill and speed to play well.”
It is clear that the Sharks are clicking as a team. With contributions coming from many places it is no surprise to see the Sharks atop the League.
Their great start has motivated the Sharks to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season.
“The goal for the next 20 games is to be a little more consistent and play to our ability every night,” said Heatley. “We are a skating team. When we are skating well, getting pucks in and getting the forecheck going, there are not too many teams can stop us down in their end.”
“What we need is everybody contributing,” said Malhotra. “We can't rely on Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
and Dany Heatley every night to produce goals for us. We will need some more secondary scoring and contributions from everyone on a consistent basis.”
Consistency is a theme echoed by many.
“We need to be more consistent on a game to game basis,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “That grit that we bring to games needs to be there at a constant level so we can compete at the level that we are capable of.”
IN THE CREASE
The Sharks netminders currently find themselves third in the NHL rankings. In the 18 games that Evgeni Nabokov has started, he has two shutouts with a goals-against average of 2.12 and a .926 save percentage. In his two appearances Thomas Greiss
has filled in as well. He has a goals-against average of 2.04 with a .932 save percentage.
“You need goaltending throughout a season and to get into the playoffs,” says Marleau “It makes a huge difference if your goalie is playing well, standing on his head making saves. When you do make a mistake, he is there to save you. That can sway the momentum at any time in a game.”
The Sharks departed for their three-game road trip on Friday. Playing back-to-back games in St. Louis tomorrow and then in Chicago on Sunday. The Sharks will conclude their road trip on Tuesday the 17th in Nashville before coming home to face Philadelphia next Friday at HP Pavilion.