March 18, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO
The Sharks just polished off another routine, no-sweat-broken one-goal win Thursday night, thereby reminding anyone who follows them, the NHL, or any points between that they are either the hardiest, most obstinate or plain luckiest playoff team there is.
RECAP: Marleau's goal lifts Sharks to 3-2 win over Wild
The 3-2 victory was San Joses 18th one-goal result in their last 27 games, going back to the 5-2 loss to Edmonton that was their official bottoming-out. Of those, they have won 12, six in extra time. In short, they could just as easily be 6-12 as 12-6, and then you wouldnt be talking about the third-best team in the Western Conference, but the seventh-best, which may as well be the 11th-best given the nature of the Western Conference as we know it.But perhaps this is not quite the achievement of mental toughness we think it is. While the Sharks have played 37 one-run games this year, they have averaged 39 per year over the last five full seasons.In short, they are simply slightly better at navigating the close game than they used to be. Not a lot better, just slightly.Many folks have referred to their transformation from high-powered dominators to grind-it-out plumbers and dockworkers (including this folks right here), and that can be seen if you watch game to game.But the numbers suggest that they have actually been better at this all along than we realized.Since 2003, when the Sharks last missed the postseason, they have converted 68 percent of the available points in one-run games to points. They have lost only 54 of 262 such games outright, and took a point from another 62.Thats pedant-speak for, they just improved something at which they were already accomplished.Maybe what has happened in the last 27 games, though, is that they are simply more accustomed to the day-to-day grind of knowing how close they are coming to the third rail. That alone would make them more formidable come the postseason.But the year-by-year numbers say that the players already knew how to do this -- just not in so concentrated a form. And these are they:2010-11 21-8-8
So this late burst of work -- 20-4-3, with a goal differential of plus-22 is their normal workload, squeezed into half a season.The down side of this, of course, is that one-goal games take more energy and create more wear and tear on the body, especially those of advanced experience. Besides, one other thing the numbers tell us is that the Sharks 6-3 loss in Chicago Monday was their first loss of more than one goal since the Edmonton Piefight, so theyre still good (8-1) at running teams when they need to.Yes, Jan. 13 is an arbitrary date, and maybe 27 games is a small sample size. Then again, Jan. 13 was the low point of the season by any measure, and 27 games played almost exactly the same indicates a pretty iron-reinforced trend.So the Sharks arent as new and improved as we thought they were when compared to other seasons, but they are both of those things when compared to the 44 games before it, when everyone was lousy, needed to be traded, fired or both. In other words, if this is about history, theyre about the same. If this is about immediate gratification, theyre wildly different.And all at the same time.