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Pardon the Jay-Z reference. Although you hockey fans probably don't get it anyway. However, quoting my favorite rapper makes every bit of sense right now.
The San Jose Sharks appear to have their swagger back.
All season long, something has been missing from San Jose's game. Sure, they've been in control of the Pacific Division almost every morning since day one. And sure, they've played a ton of quality games and beaten a ton of awesome teams.
But something changed with this team during the All-Star break.
It's not that they're suddenly on a hot streak—tonight's OT loss makes them 4-3-1 since the break. And while their scoring is way up—they've scored at least five goals in five of those eight games—they've also allowed three in all but two of them.
What the difference boils down to is, for lack of a better word, swagger. The Sharks have played hard essentially in every period of each game. They've skated well, fought for loose pucks, been aggressive on the fore-check and played with fire and emotion.
The increased number of goals is a testament to that. The sense of urgency is back with regards to the power play—and they've scored seven times with 29.2 percent efficiency on the man-advantage.
Tonight, the power play looked as good as it had all season, and if it weren't for Roloson's mastery, they'd have been three-for-three instead of one-for-three. The Sharks also fed off of their expired power plays, another sign of hunger and high energy.
The elevated number of goals allowed since the break—and last night—can be attributed to two main factors. The first is Antti Niemi, whose simply been off his game as often as he's been on it lately.
The second is the increase in "swagger." The Sharks have not been such a deadly offensive team in a long time, and as a result have to realize that a higher-potency offense tends to lead to a higher sense of urgency in their opposition.
If the Sharks' offense continues to roll, the goals-against average will likely continue to be a little higher than before. But if Niemi gets going and the defense figures out how to adjust, the return of San Jose's swagger will start to show up in the points column.