<> at Staples Center on April 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

Sharks. Kings. Revenge. Tonight. Here’s How. (Plus Bonus Get Amped Kit)

So I guess there was a basketball game at Staples Center last night (just kidding: Kobe went out with 60, firing up every possession and you didn’t have to like Kobe or even basketball to think it was AWESOME), but the real show is tonight.

The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings drop the puck in what is objectively, either the most or second most (what’s up, St. Lou-Chi town?) intriguing series of the first round.  That is an unbiased fact, but it is also the last unbiased fact that you should necessarily expect from this column. I can do ‘objective’ and predictions, even about my own teams, but this isn’t the place. I’m not going to wast time with a ‘well I think that the Sharks will pull it out in….’ No. Such a prediction has no legitimacy. There is ZERO way that I’m picking against the Sharks. Not here. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. So why bother with the charade?

Instead, I’m gonna break it down for ya. Take a look at what it is that the Sharks need to do in order to beat the Kings.  It’s not a prediction of what will happen, but what needs to.

 

So here are some keys, it isn’t black and white, but if more of these things come to fruition than don’t, we should be dancing for another 4-7 games against the Quacks. If not…never mind that. Here’s what we need from DeBoer’s squad:

1. Goaltending. Plain and simple. Now, having written about the situation last week, I got a lot of feedback. A lot of people would like to see James Reimer between the pipes, but it is going to be Martin Jones facing his former team this year.  Does he need to match Quick? Not necessarily. Contrary to popular belief, the best goaltender is far from guaranteed to win a series, BUT a heavy mismatch will, in fact, all but decide it. The Sharks have two guys who are capable of doing that, and if Jones falters, Reimer will get the chance.  Neither of them will need to steal the series, but they need to make the save that Nemo couldn’t in 2014. Give us a chance. Just give us a chance.

2. Don’t engage. The Kings are a scumbag team with scumbag colors from a scumbag town with scumbag players (exceptions include Gaborik and Kopitar). They have a lot of guys who are going to try to get under your skin: Lucic, Brown, Nolan….Doughty is an underrated chippy little prick. There’s no way that you are going to avoid some chippiness, but if the Sharks get dragged down in it, it could favor the Kings.  Take the popwerplays, stay above it and stick it to the POSs in silver and black on the scoreboard.

3. Clear Eyes Full Hearts Short Memories. Ill be honest, I don’t really know what clear eyes and full hearts actually means (shut up you don’t either) but Friday Night Lights was awesome, so I’m appropriating the phrase to mean that the Sharks can’t worry about anything that has happened in the past. Playoff failures in Northern California? Cups in SoCal? A certain first round momentum swing? None of it matters. These are two evenly matched teams on the ice in 2016, and the Sharks can’t let any ghosts get in the way of that fact.

4. Young Guns. The Sharks are a good team if they get their scoring from Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, with Patrick Marleau providing a secondary punch. They are a great team if they get that, along with production from Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, and Joonas Donskoi. If the Sharks get scoring from all three of their top lines (and all three are capable of providing it) they are a VERY serious cup contender.  If the can’t…they probably aren’t.

5. Pray for Pickles. The Sharks aren’t going deep, and they probably aren’t beating the Kings, if they don’t have #44. He is back in tonight and we better hope to god that he sticks/is effective. I would GLADLY take a partial MCL tear (My best guess) if it means that Marc Eduard Vlasic’s right knee is 100%.

6. GET HYPED. That’s the most important thing.  Like I said at the jump. This isn’t where you come for objective analysis. This is rally the troops.  This is get amped. This is BEAT F—ING LA. 16 Wins. Our Year. Let’s go.  LET’S GO!

Okay that probably won’t be determination of the series, but it wouldn’t be a playoff preview post if we didn’t include a few of these. Hit it:

 

(HT random people who post stuff on YouTube)

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 12: James Reimer #34 and Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate with teammates after defeating the Washington Capitals at SAP Center on March 12, 2016 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** James Reimer; Martin Jones

Has James Reimer Earned the Sharks’ Net for the Playoffs?

The Sharks, just prior to the trade deadline, brought in James Reimer from the Toronto Maple Leafs to shore up a backup goaltending position that was badly lacking with Al Stalock as the number two.

It hasn’t exactly turned out that way, but the Sharks appeared to be heading into a playoff race in which they would need to be competitive every night as they tried to get into the playoffs. Instead, they have been (likely) locked into the 3 seed in the Pacific Division for most of the last month of the season, but the Sharks appeared to be in a position where they couldn’t risk giving away a chance at two points on a given night, which meant that if they didn’t make a change at the deadline,  they would be unable to take Martin Jones out from between the pipes even with a number of back to back scenarios on the horizon.

This was because there was a lack of trust in Stalock, which in turn didn’t allow them give Jones a rest. In high school, I photoshopped a picture of a beach ball in the net behind my goalie to drive home the point that I had been trying to tell him, which was ‘buddy, you couldn’t stop a beach ball’ (and also the point that ‘there isn’t a ton to do with your free time at boarding school in rural Connecticut.’) I really did. Look:

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Okay it was MS paint, not photoshop.  Whatever. Point is, this is about where I was with Stalock, except that now I live in a city and have, like, law school stuff, so I didn’t take the time to create an artistic masterpiece like the one above. (The other point is that I have a long history of chirping goaltenders on my own team- ask the kid who I informed ‘hey Christian you have a shutout’ with 45 seconds left in an 11-0 game, which ended 12-1 — the idea being that if they can’t take it from me they don’t have they don’t have the mental toughness to withstand….-just kidding the point was that I usually think its funny to give them a hard time.)

Anyways, I got WAYYY off topic there, but the point is that the Sharks needed a better number 2 goaltender. Needing points and being unable to give Jones a night off necessitated a move, which is why they traded for James Reimer.

To say that Reimer has been a better number 2 than Stalock is not really a correct statement. Rather, Reimer has established himself as a second number 1 for the Sharks. In 8 games, Reimer has posted 3 shutouts, and put up a 1.625 GAA with a .938 save percentage, which is, in a word, awesome. It is, of course, a small sample size, and he has been playing behind a Sharks game that is as hot as it has been in at least two seasons, but those numbers would make him the best goaltender in the league if they were over the course of a season, and they are the best in the league amongst players with more than 6 starts in the month plus since he came over from Toronto (Mike Smith has a higher save percentage, but a higher GAA, fewer shutouts and fewer wins-I’m obviously biased, but whatever. I’m giving he edge to Reimer.).

On the other hand, Martin Jones was brought in with the idea being that he would be the Sharks number one goaltender.  They gave up a first rounder and a good prospect to acquire Jones and had clearly targeted him for a time leading up to the deal that brought him here. The Sharks are also committed to Martin Jones through the end of 2018 (2 seasons after this one) and will, assuming his game doesn’t fall apart, presumably seek to resign him after that, his 28 year old season. Reimer, on the other hand, is an unrestricted free agent after this season. He is going to want to go somewhere where he is a clear cut number one goaltender both on the depth chart and in his bank account. The Sharks can’t provide either of those things,  so barring a passionate decision to take less money  and come compete by Reimer (the chances of which are slim to none, and slim has one foot out the door), he will be gone shortly after July 1st when free agency opens.

None of that should really matter, but what does matter is that Jones has played well enough to establish himself as a number 1 goaltender for the Sharks, and he played them into playoff contention for the first 5 months of the season without much help in net. Jones spent the first few years as an exceptional backup behind one of the (allegedly but that is a different conversation) best goalies in the league, but the Sharks clearly had intentions of making him a starter when they brought him to San Jose. They did that and he hasn’t disapointed. With all due respect to Paul Martin, Pete DeBoer and Joonas Donskoi, the biggest reason that the Sharks find themselves comfortably in the post season as opposed to comfortably outside of it at this time last year, is that Martin Jones’s performance has been a significant upgrade over Anti Niemi’s last year.

Since nothing about Jones’s play would suggest that he should be benched, so the question becomes whether or not the exceptional performance that James Reimer has put in since coming west (and finally playing behind a non-dumpsterfire team), is reason alone to put an otherwise more than competent starter on the bench for the post season. (I wouldn’t give a shit anyways, but some people would so lets’ get this out of the way- neither has any substantial post season experience that could be factored in).

The answer is pretty clear. It isn’t exactly fair to put one of these guys on the bench, but you  need to go into the playoffs with the idea that your starter will see every minute until you are out or you are hoisting a large silver chalice. There is no scenario in which you can plan for both to see time. One of them gives you a better chance to win and fairness be dammed: he needs to be in net.

Right now, that means that Martin Jones is your guy. The Sharks gave up a ton to get him, but I was okay with it because if you don’t have ‘a guy,’ a clear cut number 1 goalie who is a bona fide stud, you aren’t making a substantial run in the NHL. The Sharks identified Jones as one of those, and paid what they had to to get him. Now, they need to trust their evaluation (which has been largely proven accurate), and to stick with the goalie, Jones, that they have treated as a number one all year, and who has proven himself to be up to the task. This means playing him over Reimer, who despite having been phenomenal in his short time in San Jose, is still essentially an unknown quantity as “the guy” (and fairly or unfairly was never tagged as such even in Toronto).

That doesn’t mean that Reimer needs to get used to the idea of tracking shots and opening the door as long as the Sharks are in the playoffs (partly because backup goalies don’t do much of either of those things anymore but also because of the following…). Jones should be the starter on night 1 of the playoffs, and it should be his net to lose, but that doesn’t mean that the Sharks should go down with him no matter what. If the Sharks go down in a series, or if Jones doesn’t come up big (to be fair he has struggled for some relatively short stretches this year), Reimer is an attractive option as a shot in the arm for the team or an upgrade over a struggling goaltender. We no longer live in a world where a goaltending change in the playoffs is a desperate move reserved for sinking ships. Corey Crawford was spelled with Scott Darling for the eventual champs last year.

All that is to say that Reimer has been great, and could become relevant in the post-season, but Jones has earned the net in game 1, and he will probably have it, even if it is with a shorter hook.

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Sharks Fail to Clinch For Third Straight Game, Blogger Posts Flagrant Jinx Attempt

On Saturday, for the third time in a row, since the Sharks magic number was reduced to one, San Jose dropped a game, and the Coyotes pulled out a win, meaning that a week later, the Sharks will take on the Kings still not having secured a playoff birth.

Now, I joked above that this is a flagrant jinx attempt however, I am, in fact not under the impression that the Sharks need jinxing.  They have plenty of games left which will allot them plenty of time to make up for the two points (and the Coyotes chances of running the table for the last 10% of the season are about the same as my chances of ever actually monetizing this website) that they need to ensure that Hasso Platter’s pockets are lined with a few extra million in gate revenue, and I will be 200-300 dollars poorer depending on how far the Sharks go in the playoffs and if I can get my friends to pay me back.

SO, in sumation, I’m not really worried about the Sharks and their inability to actually clinch a spot in the big dance, but I am frustrated, in the fact that they haven’t done so yet. As for how they will actually fare once the REAL season starts, that is a question for when they actually, for realsies, mathmatically clinch a spot in the National Hockey League Post Season.

So hopefully tomorrow.

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SHARKS WIN! SHARKS WIN! I’M OFF THE SCHNEID! MY DAD CAN’T MAKE FUN OF ME ANYMORE!!!

Okay so obviously there are probably plenty of reasons why he still can, and probably still would/should. BUT he is down one reason that he took advantage of the other day.

I mentioned it in the ‘preview,’ but I had been 0-8-1 at Sharks games yesterday, and when I talked to my Dad on Sunday, he asked me if I was at the Buffalo game on Friday Night. I told him that no, it was a good friend’s birthday and I was in San Francisco. He responded that he figured I was since, you know…they lost. Hilarious, dad.

Anyways he (and you too Kelly) CAN’T HOLD THAT OVER ME ANYMORE! The Sharks took it too the shell of the team that used to be the Montreal Canadiens, picking up a big 2 points and giving me the first home win I have seen in 10 games at the tank.

Anyways, it was a good team effort, a pretty dominating one, and an impressive performance by Joe Thornton. Thornton is a guy who made a career out of slowing the game down to his pace and being smarter than everyone else, but somehow at the age of 36 he actually had as much jump as I have seen him show last night, pushing the pace and looking like every bit the player that he was in his MVP season 10 years ago.

Really though, the takeaway from last night is just how far the Montreal Canadiens have fallen. I have long contended that goaltenders are more similar than different and that their impact is sometimes overrated, but there is no denying that the absence of Carey Price has completely napalmed this Canadiens’ season. It’s incredible to think that the season that started with the best start in the history of (arguably) the most successful franchise in sports will end with the Canadiens not only missing the playoffs, but selling off assets, potentially running off a coach, and by the last 6 weeks of the season, the only thing that they’re competing for is ping-pong balls (hypothetical ones, that’s not actually how the NHL lottery works but you get the idea).

Anyways, shoutout to my Dad, Happy 60th, stop making fun of me because it is now subjectively not my fault if the Sharks lose at home. 1024x1024

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Sharks Square Off With The Canadiens in Probably the Biggest Tilt of the Year. 

Monday night tilly against a sliding eastern conference team? You betcha. Here’s why: 

The Kings and Ducks are rolling but moving up is still a definite possibility, and taking care of business in back to backs against non-playoff contenders (can’t believe that’s a descriptor for the Habs but here we are) is something you just gotta do. They’re all big games right now and thank god for that. 

More importantly though, your boy will be at SAP tonight. Not only are the Sharks still oh-fer with me in the building, but it got to the point tha my my own fathe was chirping me for being a mush the other day. So, since I don’t plan on not going to games anymore, I’m gonna need this run of luck to turn around here.  

 

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Doug Wilson Does Thing I Would Do, Gets Roman Polak, Rid of Raffi Torres

The trade deadline is coming up, and San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson has made his first deal of the deadline season (also his first deal of the hockey season). It’s a good deal in that it fills a need, gets rid of a headache, and adds some depth, and unless he can find a taker for a bit of excess salary (anyone interested in a slightly used Brenden Dillon?), it means that he is probably done between now and the March 1st deadline.

What Wilson (AKA Dougie Fresh AKA the SAP Center Savage AKA SJ Sharks Director of Lettuce Operations AKA Mr. Steal Yo Prospect) actually did was send two second rounders to Toronto along with problem child AHLer Raffi Torres, in exchange for Roman Polak, Nick Spaling’s contract. Additional considerations include the ability to not feel compelled to defend Raffi Torres anymore, in exchange for the Leafs not actually having to let Raffi Torres anywhere near their AHL or NHL franchise.  No, seriously, he is still on the Barracuda, the Leafs just have his rights obligations.

So anyways, is this a perfect deal? No. Not at all. Unless he can drastically change his 7 points in 35 games performance (spoiler alert he probably can’t), Nick Spaling’s 2.2 million dollar 1 way cap hit instantly becomes the worst on the Sharks books that doesn’t belong to Brenden Dillon, and more or less ties their hands for the rest of the trade deadline stretch in a non-money-in-for-money-out scenario.

I also don’t love the fact that Doug is basically treating this like an NHL 16 ‘be a GM’ franchise where you trade all of your draft picks because you don’t care about the computer generated players you can draft, and you had a chance to stack your roster a little bit by throwing in first and second rounders to trades, and you don’t have to worry about it because you will have lost interest in the simulation long before you get to the point where you need players drafted after the first season you were playing the game for, so you decimate your supply of early round picks but you totally got Stamkos on the Sharks and COULD TOTALLY BE AN NHL GM.

That is to say, he has now moved two second round picks a third round pick and a first round pick out in the last year, meaning as it stands the Sharks will draft just three times in the first round over the next three years which is…I mean, not ideal.

(As an aside if I were a GM I would be so tempted to do this with ALL my picks. What’s the average tenure for a GM? 5  years? My 2020 first rounder won’t be in his prime-if he makes it at all-until long after I’ve moved on been fired. And I actually don’t even mind it as a fan.  In 7 or 8 years when we really need those players I hope that the Sharks mean less to me. I plan on having a cool wife, but no woman is cool enough to let you watch 70 games a year when you have kids. I mean if I were 10 years old I might be more concerned, but 10 year olds are dumb and probably don’t even understand how the cyclical nature of the Canadian dollar exchange rate and the incoming TV rights money will boost league revenues around that time, which will let teams build through free agency more than the current cap structure allows.)

My best guess is that the taking on of Spaling’s deal is actually consideration in favor of Toronto, in exchange for the acceptance of the Raffi Torres headache, and, along with the draft picks, for a heavy lock down defenseman. Polak is that. He has average advanced metrics (which makes him an above average bottom paring guy-especially considering that the easier matchups he is likely to face will boost those numbers), and looks the part as a big, thick defenseman with a thick beard and a strong jaw line. Don’t underestimate those (I used advanced stats so I need to balance it out with an homage to real scouts who actually get paid by real life sports teams that believe you can tell something about a player based on his face). For real though, he is a tough, shutdown, front of the net type of player, who’s corsi and alike suggest that he isn’t too lumbering and/or bad at hockey to actually, you know, retrieve the puck and help his team actually play offense (related: still wondering, anyone interested in a slightly used Brenden Dillon?).

Spaling may or may not be a fourth liner (which actually kinda sucks because #FreeBenSmith), but that concern is secondary to the fact that Polak shores up the bottom half of the Sharks D core, something an intelligent writer suggested would be nice just last week.

(also as ling as we’re doing the whole ‘rambling stream of consciousness’ thing here-and we are- it could help if Tommy Wingles is out for an extended period of time, which would suck because Tommy Wingles is awesome and Nick Spaling is not Tommy Wingles)

Anyways, speculation is that the Sharks may try to shore up the backup goaltending position, although I can’t imagine why:

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which might prove tough with the cap room equivalent of ash tray change to work with, but either way the Sharks tone is pretty clear.

The team is pretty squarely in a position to make the playoffs, and looks like it can make a run. Wilson played his deadline card here that indicates that he is not only prepared to go for it now, but that he thinks he can with the group that has been in the room all year. The way that they have played for most of 2016, it is difficult to disagree.

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Pro Hockey Talk Thinks ‘It’s Time to pay Attention to the Sharks.’ I Agree.

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Pictured: 4 Guys who are really good and play the same position, on the ice at the same time.

So the title of this blog is a little bit ironic, what with coverage having slipped in the past month or so, but this Sharks team is, by the looks of things, setting itself up to not only make a run for the playoffs, but be a team that you don’t necessarily love seeing there if you are the rest of the conference.

You will enjoy reading the whole Pro Hockey Talk story here, and it’s worth doing so, but the gist is this: the Sharks are rolling, they are beating good teams, and their underlying numbers suggest that this, not the middling team we saw for much of the first half, is who they should be. My favorite point, though  is the one that is made after that:

Undoubtedly, the return of Logan Couture has helped, since the Sharks can now boast Joe Thornton as a first-line center, Patrick Marleau as a second-line center, and Couture as a third-line center. Not many teams have that kind of depth down the middle. And that’s without mentioning All-Star sniper Joe Pavelski, whose 26 goals are the seventh-most in the league.

Doug Wilson has taken a lot of heat lately, but this is an awesome point. Most people would agree that in the NHL, teams should be built down the middle and along the blueline. Some would contend that goaltending is there as well and I don’t disagree necessarily, but I have a theory, which is too long to shoehorn in here, that leads me to believe that it is at best tertiary to those elements of roster construction.

With that in mind, the Sharks not only have four All-Star caliber natural centers (not including Tomas Hertl, who has been a wing,  and hasn’t quite reached the ‘All-Star’ caliber, but is an extremely talented player who has taken a jump this year and is listed as a center most places). I was mad at the organization because of the lack of centers that they have drafted since taking Couture in 2007 (0 in the first round- I believe only Tierney in the first 2- Hertl had played exclusively wing until this October), but that is a future concern. With Thornton and Marleau both still productive, and Couture healthy, the Sharks are loaded down the middle at the current time.

Behind them, they have 3 top end D men in Burns, Vlasic and Martin. While the bottom 3 there is unproven, DeMelo and Braun have been great this year (and Justin Braun, to be fair, could actually be said to have played his way past ‘unproven’ over the past two years). The sixth spot is a bit of a concern (Brendan Dillon is actively hurting the team, according to most metrics, when he is healthy), but if the sixth defenseman is the biggest issue, that is a pretty positive indication for the team as they head into the stretch.

With a couple of months left in the regular season, the Sharks are in a very comfortable playoff spot.  Holding off a surging Anaheim for the 2 seed in the Pac-3 (get it because there are only 3 good teams in the Pacific okay whatever I thought it was funny) will be tough, but there is plenty of cousin between them and the Yotes, with a couple of Wild Card spots in play if the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes of Glendale make a run.

Pro Hockey Talk has suggested it, and the reasons have been laid out,  but now it is on me: it is time to pay attention to the Sharks.*

* I have been, I watch every game but I will try to write more now, is what I mean.

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All Star Break Over, Sharks Back in Action Tonight in Anaheim

After a week in which the closest thing that we got to Sharks hockey was Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski reclaiming everyone’s new favorite player, John Scott, as a spiritual member of the San Jose Sharks the boys in teal (well, white, since they’re on the road) are back tonight against the Ducks in Anaheim tonight.

It’s actually a pretty big one for the Sharks.  They are in the midst of a playoff race, and the once left for dead Ducks are not creeping up on the playoff picture coming out of the break.  The Pacific, outside of Los Angeles, is a fairly muddled mess, what with San Jose, Arizona, Anaheim and Vancouver all within 5 points of each other with two playoff spots on the line. Throw in Nashville Colorado and Minnesota all within that range fighting for the two Wild Cards, and there will be no shortage of 4 point tilts in the second half of the season.  It is Jones in the net for the Sharks, and Freddy Anderson for the Ducks with Gibson returning from All- Star Weekend. Big game, let’s hope the Sharks can continue the hot streak they took into the break coming out of it.

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9 Thoughts/A Midseason’s Analysis

The Sharks celebrated the good Doctor on MLK day by dropping one in a shootout to the Ottawa Senators, thanks in large part to a shootout goal by Craig Smith that was questionable to say the least.

In spite of this, the Sharks have played good hockey by any measure to start 2016, having won 5 in a row prior to the Ottawa game, the result of which is that they find themselves back in a playoff position in second place in the Pacific. With that in mind, here are 10 thoughts on the state of the Sharks:

1. The Patrick Marleau rumors have, mercifully, died down. There are still reports that trade talks exist, but even those concede that Marleau is less than likely to be dealt away from the Sharks prior to this year’s trade deadline. This is by now means an indication that Marleau will now undoubtably retire a Shark, but evidence suggests that he will at least play out the year in San Jose.

2. Problem is, along with the quieting of the trade rumors has come a quieting of Marleau’s production. For much of the year (particularly, ironically while the team struggled), Marleau was a pillar of production for the Sharks. Since the team has heated up, though, in the last 7 games, a 5-1-1 stretch, Marleau has just one assist.

3. This has coincided with an uptick in the effectiveness of the Sharks other 1997 draft product, Joe Thonrton. Thornton showed legitimate signs that he was past the point of being an elite creator of offense, having significantly backed off of his ppg pace, even from last year. Recently, though, Jumbo has regained his point-per-game form, and has looked more like the elite dude that Sharks fans haave come to expect.

4. I have been saying this for a while now, but if you see some for sale, BUY as much Tomas Hertl stock as you can get your hands on (you won’t, because that isn’t a real thing, but bare with me). The 22 year old still has only 22 points, which is sure to be an improvement over last year’s 31, but not what Sharks fans expected 2 years after a 25 point in 37 game 20 year old campaign (and you know, a highlight reel 4 goal game). Despite this, I see every reason to believe that 48 is about to take not just a step forward, but a leap in his game.

For the first couple of years, Hertl has played like a physically underdeveloped guy with a decent sized frame.  This year he is noticeably stronger. His puck possession ability is noticeably improved. He isn’t necessarily driving the zone of play on his own (i.e. consistently taking the puck from the D zone to create chances on his own), but even amongst the best possession players few NHLers do that individually.  In the offensive zone, Hertl has been visibly better protecting the puck, even if he hasn’t translated it into goals and assists just yet (he was held back by an abnormally shooting percentage and PDO). In the past few games, though, particularly when paired with Jumbo, he is starting to get the horsepower to the road a bit better, as he has scored with 7 points in the Sharks 5-0-1 roll.

Watching his game and looking at underlying numbers, you would expect this streak to continue and even improve.

5. Speaking of young reasons for optimism, Joonas Donskoi is just flat out a good NHL player. Lately, on top of that, he has turned into  a highlight machine.  It’s been a while since the Sharks have had a guy that you would really say is ‘exciting,’ so having Donskoi doing things like these:

 

Is a welcome addition, quite aside from the fact that he shores up the top 6.

6. Despite all of the maligning of the Pacific division in the early half of the 2015 season, the division has actually picked it up, at least comparatively, and actually has a chance to push into a wold card spot, and a 4/4 playoff split with the Central.

GRANTED, at first glance the Central is in control.  They certainly have a stronger top 3 with Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis all having more points than the Pacific leading Kings, and as it stands now the two wild cards are both with the Central, but the Canucks are just 2 points back (with a game in hand) of the Avalanche, and 3 of sliding Minnesota. Also don’t look now but the Ducks are just 4 points back of Colorado, and they have a full 3 games in hand.

7. They gave up a lot to get him, and it sucks not having a first round pick, but the deal with Boston seems to be paying off thus far, since the NHL is a league where a dude in goal is hard to find, and if you don’t have one you don’t have a chance. Al Stalock has been questionable as a backup with a 3-6 record, including the Ottawa loss which falls squarely on his shoulders, but he isn’t crippling and Jones has been an improvement over Niemi last year.

8. Big tilt tonight, maybe the first of the year that can actually deserve that label. The Sharks are locked into second with the Yotes, but have a game in hand.  They also have the Nucks and Ducks breathing down their back, and don’t yet (as mentioned above) have a wild card cushion. Division games are going to be huge for the next three months as the Sharks push for the playoffs.

9. We will end with this: The season has been, to say the least, an up and down one. There have been winning streaks in both directions, but all in all, going into a season where there was a glut of uncertainty, the Sharks are, all things considered, in a good position.  They are in a playoff position with games in hand on everyone around them, and finally seem to be figuring it out at home. The Pacific is still relatively weak, but that works in the Sharks favor, and should they get into the tournament…anything can happen.

Jim Harbaugh Attends Sharks Game, Chews Like Neandrathal

That’s pretty much it. Better not have been rooting for the Red Wings just because he is in Michigan now (just kidding I could give a damn whether the coachiest caricature of a football coach in the world likes my hockey team).