When the Sharks hit the rink for Friday’s practice, they were the No. 2 team in the Western Conference. The Sharks have faced adversity recently from surprisingly poor play at home and an early bundle of Canadian media rumors, but they have stayed the course and gone on a winning stretch. Team Teal now has taken 20 of the last 26 points available.
If must be remembered that the Sharks were never really bad, they were just playing below the expectations of a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
“Expectations are super high,” said Curtis Brown. “From the beginning of the year, we have wanted to be the best. We know what we want to accomplish.”
“We know we’re a good team,” said Joe Thornton
. “Nobody in this room doubted we were a good team. It was just a matter of time.”
Internally, San Jose kept to their master plan, knowing that it’s virtually impossible for a club to be hot for an entire season. Last year, Anaheim slowed down for a bit in the middle of the year en route to their title.
“We never hit the panic button,” said Coach Ron Wilson. “We know our record from the past three years. You have to look at the body of work. You can’t let something that happens in the short term change what you’re doing."
“You see it happen a lot where a team starts out 6-0 before coming down to earth. We had a slow start. I’d rather have it early and get it out of the way.”
What the Sharks did best was have a belief in themselves. San Jose knew the engine needed some tweaking, but not a complete overhaul.
“We were so good on the road and over the last week, we found a way to do it at home,” said Brown. “The best teams are the most consistent, well-rounded and have depth.”
“Sure we were disappointed (in the start), but you have to work through things,” said Wilson. “Because we stuck together and didn’t lose ground, we’re a better team having faced adversity. Ottawa was under .500 early last year and got to the Finals. "
Now the Sharks are playing like a team with Patrick Marleau
, Steve Bernier, Joe Pavelski
and others finding their offense as of late. Combining that with Thornton’s production, the Sharks can be a dominant scoring machine.
“Obviously Joe is always there, but we need everyone at different times,” said Brown. “And our goaltending has always been unbelievable.”
Thornton never doubted the Sharks offense would pick up.
“We’re a very talented team and can score a lot of goals,” said Thornton. “We have a lot of fire power, we’re focused and the puck is going the right way.”
Don't forget goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, arguably the team's early season Most Valuable Player. Nabokov is near the top of almost every NHL goaltending category and with the club’s stifling defense, it was only a matter of time before the offense began doing its part.
The Sharks know their play needs to stay on the current path, or they could quickly find themselves in the previous situation.
“You look at the standings and there are hardly any teams under .500,” said Brown. “It’s hard to gain ground unless you are outright winning.”
San Jose has done just that and they plan to keep right on doing it.
“There is still a lot to do,” said Brown.
Alexei Semenov was placed on the Injured Reserve list Friday with a broken finger.
PREPPING FOR DALLAS
San Jose may have the tie-breaker in being listed as the conference’s second-best club, but they are actually tied with Dallas for first in the Pacific based on points (Dallas has played two more games).
“It’s always important when we play Dallas,” said Michalek. “We are tied for first and someone will have it to themselves after the game.”
The fans always get up for the club Team Teal has battled with for more than a decade in the division.
“The fans like it when Dallas comes in,” said Michalek. “The rivalry goes back before I got here. They are a hard team to play against because we know each other so well. They are really good defensively. Their forwards may be the best backcheckers in the League.”
The Stars players appreciate the rivalry as well.
“I love playing out there in San Jose. It’s a great building and they have great fans,” said netminder Marty Turco. It gets loud and they have a good team. We’ve had some great games in there. It really is a great atmosphere.”
Turco noted the similarities between the two clubs over the years.
“Their (San Jose) core has been together for a while just like ours,” said Turco. “I think that there is a lot of mutual respect between the two teams. Every time the Stars and Sharks get together, it is a great game.”
NO TEAM CANADA
Sharks prospect Ty Wishart and Tyson Sexsmith
were cut from Team Canada’s World Junior Camp.
The Sharks will play hosts to Dallas Saturday at 1 p.m. and the game will be on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Limited tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.