Many have argued that the Western Conference is the far superior half of the NHL. Just two weeks into the 2013-14 season, stats are beginning to show it: The current playoff threshold in the West is 109 points; In the Eastern Conference, only 89. With so many teams off to a solid start, Blackhawk Up takes a look at what teams are really there to stay, and who’s just enjoying the moment while it lasts.
For a link to Part Two, click here.
San Jose Sharks
Oct 15, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Season Summary So Far: Once again the Sharks decide to go streaking at the start of the year. In 2013, it was a seven-game run, and they are one win away from equaling that record this time around. Not only are the Sharks winning, but they’re winning against good teams. They have dispatched the Vancouver Canucks twice, the mediocre Phoenix Coyotes, and just shut down the previously undefeated St. Louis Blues. It’s no secret what the cause is: offense. The Sharks have a +21 goal differential, after only six games.
Strengths: Free-wheeling offense, backed by great two-way defencemen, good balance of veterans and youth, a goaltender able to succeed under pressure (which they haven’t faced yet), put teams down early, and by lots of goals.
Weaknesses: Neither special teams unit is really successful compared to the team as a whole, one or two injuries to key contributors could leave a huge hole in the lineup, best defenseman was injured last night, expected to miss some time.
The Real Deal?: Sure thing. The Sharks look way more matured than a year ago, after their aforementioned 7-game win streak was followed by seven straight losses. This team knows how to get to the playoffs, and how to succeed in the playoffs. Next on their list is a Western Conference Championship, something never done in the team’s history.