SAN JOSE They have beaten some of their biggest rivals in November, with wins over Detroit, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. They are atop the Pacific Division, just two points from the NHL lead in points, and have the best winning percentage in the league.
Are the San Jose Sharks satisfied with the way theyre playing?
Not by a long shot.
After the Sharks won 4-1 in Colorado on Sunday, I asked Todd McLellan if his team is playing its best hockey of the season. Even before I could finish the question, he replied:
No. No. I dont think we are right now. Our best hockey was probably early in that six-game road trip when we got going and played well in Boston and Nashville. That was our best hockey.
Weve got some work to do, and some areas to polish up.
After a 1-0 win over the Blackhawks, in which Antti Niemis 34 saves stole the show, McLellan basically repeated that mantra.
We're still looking at our starts, our consistency in play, he said. Our penalty-kill is improving and our power play can be better; a lot of areas that we have to work on.
Even though the Sharks have outscored their opponents 14-4 over their current four-game winning streak, playing a complete game from start to finish has eluded them. Against Detroit, Colorado and Chicago, it was the first period that gave them trouble. The first period was better against Dallas, but San Jose sat back on its lead in the third period, frustrating the coach.
They have also had trouble generating shots in the last two games. In fact, the 18 in Colorado and 21 against Chicago are their lowest totals to date.
To their credit, though, the Sharks are winning games. Consistently.
We have a good team, we realize that, said Joe Thornton. Even though we might get 40 shots we only need probably 16 or 17 with our good goal scorers to put pucks in. Thats a good sign that we have.
Niemi is a big reason for the recent success, as hes held the Sharks in the game long enough for them to get their legs. San Jose has outscored its opponents 31-11 in the second period, which is a huge margin for so early in the season.
Niemi has won his last five starts, allowing just six goals over that span. It is efforts like his, specifically against Chicago, that teams need throughout the year when they may not have everyone skating at 100 percent.
Well have that throughout the year. You have to be able to win games where youre not playing as well, said McLellan. You look for heroes every night, and Nemo was probably that guy Wednesday night.