When the Sharks were struggling a bit early in the year, there were a lot of negative numbers in that column. Since late January, the Sharks have been improving that number every game and have the four best plus/minus ratings in the time period.Marc-Edouard Vlasic
is an NHL-best plus-23, followed by Joe Pavelski
(second, plus-21), Joe Thornton
(third, plus-19) and Patrick Marleau
(fourth, plus-18). Dan Boyle
is tied for 10th since the All-Star Game with a plus-14.
Coach Todd McLellan credits the improvement to the players on the ice.
“We’ve actually talked about it a little throughout our games,” McLellan said. “It may not be a stat that all the hockey people really believe in, but regardless, it shows up on paper no matter where you look. It’s in the stat sheet. A lot of times you’re a victim of circumstance, positive and negative, but a lot of our guys have dug themselves out of a deep hole. They should be proud of that, disappointed they put themselves in that hole, but proud they dug themselves out.”
Players get a “plus” when they’re on the ice as their team scores a goal at even strength or shorthanded. They get a “minus” when they’re on the ice as the opponent scores either 5-on-5 or a man short.
The players know the importance of keeping the opponent off the scoreboard while creating offensive opportunities, hence the uptick in the numbers.
|“We haven’t changed anything," said Dan Boyle about the Sharks improvement in plus/minus. "It’s just guy rededicating themselves to the system and doing it properly.” (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
“We’ve tightened things up defensively and it’s allowed us to play better in the offensive zone,” Boyle said. “We haven’t changed anything. It’s just guy rededicating themselves to the system and doing it properly.”
With three games left in the regular season, there are no plans to alter the current course.
“Keep playing the same way,” Boyle said. “Not get lazy. Not create bad habits. Just keep playing the same way. We’re playing the right way and it’s fun to play hockey that way.”
“It’s an important part of winning games and going forward in the playoffs it will be huge,” Patrick Marleau
said. “There are a few things we feel we need to get better at. The stats since the All-Star Break have been great and we need to continue that and be better at that.”6 FOR 20Joe Thornton
became the sixth Shark to reach the 20-goal plateau this season when he scored in the second period against Los Angeles on Monday. He joined Marleau (37), Logan Couture
(31), Dany Heatley (25), Ryane Clowe
(24) and Devin Setoguchi (22) with 20-plus goals. It ties the club record for most 20-goal scorers in a single season, which was done twice before.
It happened in 2008-09 with Marleau (38), Setoguchi (31), Thornton (25), Pavelski (25), Milan Michalek (23) and Clowe (22). It also occurred in 2001-02 with Teemu Selanne (29), Scott Thornton (26), Owen Nolan (23), Marleau (21), Marco Sturm (21) and Vincent Damphousse (20).
The Sharks are the second team this season to have six of their players score 20-plus goals (all coming with the current team), joining Philadelphia.
The Sharks and Flyers each have a player with 19 goals (Pavelski).
“It’s nice because every night someone is stepping up,” Pavelski said. “Depth goes a long way. We have a lot of guys that are producing.”BATTLING BOYLER
|San Jose Sharks Dan Boyle (22) controls the puck as Florida Panthers Jack Skille (15) defends the play during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. The Panthers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell) |
Boyle, who tussled with Brad Richardson on Monday, hadn’t dropped the gloves in quite some time, but it’s not like he hadn’t in the past.
“I used to fight a little bit when I broke into the League just to try and earn my spot, but I’ve not done it in years,” Boyle said. “It was nice as long as you come out of it not getting hurt.”
THIS TIME, SECOND PLACE IS OKAY
They won’t fret if it doesn’t happen, but the Sharks will continue to press to hold onto the second overall spot in the Western Conference.
“A couple of rounds of guaranteed home ice would be nice,” Marleau said.
“We’re playing to win. We need to get these points,” McLellan said. “We’d like to have home ice advantage as far as we possibly can if we’re successful in the playoffs.”
JUST ONE TO GO
Thornton could join the exclusive 1,000-point club on the upcoming two-game road trip to Anaheim and Phoenix.
“I haven’t thought about it too much,” Thornton said. “When you’re focused on hitting the playoffs and getting the Pacific Division, things like that sit on the back burner. When I hit it, it will be nice.”
|San Jose Sharks' Scott Nichol is traveling with the team to Anaheim and Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) |
The Sharks could be even closer to seeing Scott Nichol return from an extended absence.
“I hope so,” Nichol said. “I talked to Todd and let him know I’m ready to go. It all depends how it feels after today.”
“He’s making the trip and he will likely be an option,” McLellan said.
Nichol has as strong desire to get some regular season games in before the postseason games.
“I think everybody is in that situation. There’s no way I’m going to hop in for the playoffs,” Nichol said. “Just getting the last two or three games in will be huge confidence-wise, catching up with the speed and doing the little things I do out there.”
Clowe, who played less than two minutes Monday before leaving the game, was given a day away from the ice. That doesn’t mean he won’t be available against the Ducks.
“He came to the rink, had a treatment and we kept him off the ice,” McLellan said. “We’ll evaluate him in the morning and if he’s feeling good and there’s not risk of reinjuring, he’ll play.”GAME ON!
The Sharks will visit Anaheim Wednesday at 7 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, KFOX 98.5/102.1 FM and www.sjsharks.com.