Saturday’s win over the Buffalo Sabres gave the San Jose Sharks something they haven’t had all season: A .500 record.
The Sharks head home having won four of their last six games, including three of five on the road trip, and with some of their early-season hiccups in the rearview mirror. It helps when, all over that span, Logan Couture’s scored more goals than any other player, Martin Jones hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a start, and the penalty kill’s been near-perfect.
Not all of their issues are behind them, of course. They scored 10 goals at five-on-five play on the road trip, but the 16 they’ve scored all season stood ninth-worst in the league as of this writing. The power play has, predictably, cooled off, converting on only 10.5 percent of their opportunities on the five-game road trip.
Still, they’re improving, and have been one of the league’s best possession teams early in the season, even as they haven’t necessarily played to their full potential. They’ll need to, though, on their upcoming homestand.
The five-game slate is daunting, to say the least, and arguably the toughest stretch in their entire schedule. San Jose will host three playoff teams from last season, including the Western Conference finalists: Anaheim and Nashville.
Tampa Bay and Vancouver missed out on the previous postseason, but the former looks like the league’s best team and the latter is much-improved under a new head coach. Oh, and it all begins against Toronto, during Patrick Marleau’s homecoming, on Monday.
The Sharks will have their hands full over the next two weeks, leading up to a critical benchmark. From 2005-2013, 77.3 percent of teams in playoff position on Thanksgiving made the postseason, according to STATS. Since STATS published their findings, that’s jumped ever-so-slightly to 79.2 percent.
Turkey Day’s a little under a month away, but it arrives five games after San Jose’s extended stay at SAP Center ends. Less wins now means the Sharks will need more wins later, and failing to win two or more of their next five games means they’ll need to be near-perfect in the following five games, and potentially beyond.
The next two weeks won’t necessarily make or break San Jose’s season, but they will have a much clearer idea of the road ahead. For now, though, the Sharks are a .500 team.
Whether or not they can be expected be anything more, or less, depends on the results of their next five games.