Kurz's Top 10 takeaways from first quarter of Sharks' season
10. Jones a huge upgrade
If there was a team MVP at the quarter-pole it would have to be goaltender Martin Jones, who has provided an upgrade in the crease that simply can’t be overemphasized. Named as the NHL’s first star of the week after the historic 6-0 road trip, Jones is tied for the league lead in wins (11), fourth in GAA (2.02), and seventh in save percentage (.929). At just 25 years old, the Sharks may have found their next franchise goalie.
9. Pavelski leading the way
Not only has Joe Pavelski seemingly embraced the role of team captain off of the ice, he’s leading the way on it, too. The 31-year-old paces the Sharks with 12 goals, many of which have come at important times, and he’s just two behind NHL leader Jamie Benn. As has become common in recent years, when the Sharks are looking for a spark, it’s often Pavelski rubbing the sticks together.
8. Martin, Burns forming chemistry
Perhaps the team’s most indispensable player is defenseman Paul Martin, who has provided a steady presence on defense with partner Brent Burns, allowing the Wookie to shine offensively. It’s no coincidence that the Sharks lost all three games when the 34-year-old Martin was hurt, while Burns – although he’ll never been elite in his own end at this point in his career – looks like a different player after last season’s inconsistency.
7. Power play still suspect
It’s hard to believe, but the Sharks sit in 29th in the NHL on the power play at just 13.6 percent. There are moments where it looks dangerous, but at other times both units aren’t doing enough to create offensive chances and just don’t seem to be on the same page. Still, since it’s been near the top of the league for so many years previously, perhaps this can be a cause for optimism – if the Sharks start to get rolling with a man advantage, they’ll be all the more dangerous.
6. Minor league depth is non-existant
Yes, the Sharks have missed Logan Couture, but the club is seriously lacking depth in the minors. They’ve been forced to rush Nikolay Goldobin into the NHL when he shouldn’t be here, Barclay Goodrow was invisible on the fourth line before getting reassigned, and others like John McCarthy, Bryan Lerg and Micheal Haley aren’t long term solutions, either. On defense, Mirco Mueller could very well need more seasoning in the AHL, too. For the Sharks to have consistent success, they had better stay healthy.
5. Stalock improving, but still a question mark
It’s encouraging that Alex Stalock has won his last two starts, including the exciting comeback win in Columbus on Sunday. Still, the goalie’s .896 save percentage leaves much to be desired, and he’s allowed three goals or more in three of his four starts. The Sharks probably don’t have any other goalies in their system ready to push Stalock for the backup gig (Troy Grosenick is 2-3-2 with a 3.05 GAA and .912 SP), but the organization better hope Jones is able to keep handing a heavy workload.
4. New additions Ward, Donskoi have aided offense
Just like fellow newcomers Martin Jones and Paul Martin, Joel Ward has exceeded expectations in his first season in teal. He’s fit in with his teammates both on and off the ice, and is tied for second on the Sharks in scoring with 17 points, taking some pressure off of the core group. Rookie Joonas Donskoi, meanwhile, has helped to lessen the blow of losing Couture with 7 points in his first 16 games, and looks comfortable playing on whichever line the coaching staff puts him on.
3. Wingels, Tierney and Nieto have disappointed
Despite forming a solid third line together late last season, Tommy Wingels, Chris Tierney and Matt Nieto have all struggled to generate offense. Combined, the three of them have just two even-strength, non empty-net goals, with Tierney still looking for his first. The Sharks appear primed to sign 37-year-old veteran forward Dainius Zubrus, and he could end up pushing any of those three players down the lineup, or out of it altogether.
2. Marleau rumors abound
Although the trade rumors have died down a bit, the Patrick Marleau trade rumors are likely to surface from time to time for the next several months until the trade deadline. There were enough reports (including here) that Marleau would be willing to play for another club – and may have even been pushing for it – that this will be something to monitor. The decision ultimately lies with Marleau, who has a full no-trade clause, but if the longtime Shark wants to play somewhere else, it could throw a huge monkey wrench into the season.
1. Division there for the taking
The Sharks have vaulted to the top of the Pacific after their road trip, holding a two-point lead over the Kings, who have one game in hand. Each team in the division has had its issues, while Calgary and Anaheim have been among the bigger disappointments in the league. Considering how strong the Central Division is it’s likely that the Pacific will have just three representatives in the playoffs, but it’s wide open. The Sharks have put themselves in a good position after 21 games. Now if they can only start winning at home, where they are 3-5-0…