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The San Jose Sharks are not expected to have a great year. They’re coming off two very rough seasons and after making minimal improvements over the summer, it didn't look as though there was a ton to be excited about.
However, they’re off to a surprisingly strong start this season, with a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets to kick off the year, followed by a blowout 5-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens last night.
A key is that the Sharks have managed to hold their opponents to just 44 shots total. The team’s expected goals for percentage against the Jets was also 65 per cent, then 55 per cent against the Canadiens, and the Sharks have generated far more high danger scoring chances than they’ve given up in the games, at 21-11 (all advanced stats from NaturalStatTrick.com).
In both games, the Sharks have managed to keep a good portion of the shots against to the perimeter and minimized chances off the rush, which were just consistently handed to opponents at times last year. The goals they have allowed were also mainly the result of bad bounces or simple mistakes.
Top forwards are producing, but new additions to the lineup have been very noticeable. Andrew Cogliano, Jonathan Dahlen, William Eklund and Jasper Weatherby are providing the team with way more options up front, and the group overall looks quicker and is playing with more intensity.
The power play is also clicking, going 4-for-9 through the first two games. It’s a big sigh of relief early on, given their power play ranked 29th in the league last season.
The point is, this isn’t a situation where the Sharks have been benefitting from stellar goaltending or lucky bounces. San Jose has looked great so far, and this is coming from someone who’s been pessimistic about their position and general direction as a team.
It’s still very, very early and if the Sharks come out flat in their next three or four games and revert back to the team they’ve been over the last two years, then maybe we can chalk up their early success to just a good start against teams who are struggling. But so far, the Sharks look much better than expected and could even be poised to surprise a lot of people this year.
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