With their game Thursday night, the Sharks crossed the midway point of the season, having played 41 of their 82 games. San Jose currently sits with 47 points (21-15-5) and holds the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings. In addition, they are positioned second in the Pacific Division, just five points behind the Dallas Stars. On the flip side, there are seven teams within two points of them in the topsy-turvy conference race.
The first half has been a mixed bag for San Jose, primarily because of the in-house standards they are holding themselves to, as many clubs could be happy with the Sharks record. Stepping back, a lot can be said for what is occurring on HP Pavilion ice.
Offensively Dany Heatley is leading the charge with 37 points (41 games), just ahead of Joe Thornton
and his 35 points (39 games), and with a couple of hot contests both could quickly be on pace for last year’s numbers when San Jose won the west and reached the conference final. Ryane Clowe
is having a breakout season and tracking to beat his career point total by more than 10 points. In addition, rookie Logan Couture
has been outstanding in leading the club, and all NHL rookies, with 18 goals. Patrick Marleau
is tied for fifth in the NHL in power play goals and Dan Boyle
is right on track to tie his career best point mark from last year (58).
Less than 10 clubs have five or more players in double digit goals and the Sharks are part of the party.
No matter what the standings or the individual point totals say though, the Sharks judge themselves by how they are playing and they see room for improvement. Maybe the best news heading into the second half, is the team knows internally what they can do.
“There are 41 games left, there is half a year left,” Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “We haven’t played to our ceiling or our capacity this year. If we get to that level like we expect to, that (the playoffs) will take care of itself. It’s like a business, there is black and there is red. We see a little too much red right now. Businesses don’t succeed that way and hockey teams don’t succeed that way. We believe in the people in the lockerroom because they’ve shown us they can do it. The group in there has done it before. They have the capability to do it again.”
“As a team we want to be playing well, no matter what,” Patrick Marleau
said. “The past couple of seasons we’ve been playing well to this point. We’ve struggled to find our way this season so far. The good point is we’ve done it in the past. We know how to do it. Now it’s about going it out and doing it consistently and the wins will come. The higher position will come with the points.”
The Sharks players want no part of backing down from the high expectations set by their play in recent seasons.
“Everybody is looking at what we are not doing because since I’ve been here we’ve labeled ourselves, by the results, as a number one or number two team in the league and the conference,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic
said. “That’s why everybody is looking at what we’re not doing instead of what we are doing. We’re not satisfied with where we are in the standings and how we’re playing. We’re not hating everything, we’re just not satisfied.”
It’s one thing for a team to say they want to get better, but the Sharks have a history with their talented lineup.
“The good news is there is a ceiling to reach, the not so good news is it’s been 41 games and we haven’t reached it yet,” McLellan said.
The players are on the exact same page with the coaching staff and would like to raise the level of their game, even though they currently sit in the upper third of the conference.
“We just need to be better, we’re in the hunt for things right now, but we can play a little better,” Captain Joe Thornton
said. “There are a lot of teams bunched up together, so hopefully in the next 41 games we can find our game and play it well.”
“Expectations are pretty high here,” Dan Boyle
said. “There might be some other teams that would be happy to have the record we have, but I don’t think this lockerroom or this organization is happy where we are at right now. That’s a good thing. We’re not playing at full capacity right now. We need to clean up some things and keep the work ethic up.”
Seeing where they sit in the conference and division races is part of the everyday routine for the players and it’s something they are very cognizant of.
“We see the standings every day, you’re eating breakfast and you see the standings,” Thornton said. “You obviously know what’s going on in the league. You want to win the division, you want to win every game. You look at the standings, where Dallas is, we’re right behind them. I think we can string some wins together and we’ll be fine.”
“If we play like we know we can, we are going to be much better in the second half,” Boyle said. “Considering we haven’t played as good as we can, hopefully that’s a positive knowing we can play a lot better and the results will reflect that.”
There is nothing solid about a possible return for forward Joe Pavelski
“We’ll see how he is in the morning, he had a good practice today,” McLellan said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
The Sharks will host Nashville at 5 p.m. Saturday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.