Sharks Analysis: San Jose Sparked by Dominating Defense

Steven BairdCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2008

Hockey can be a very simple game—score more goals than your opponent and victory shall be yours. 


This season the San Jose Sharks sometimes have not been able to rack up the goals as much as they (or their fans) have liked, but they certainly have been able to prevent the other team from scoring. 


Last night at home against Pacific Division rival and Stanley Cup champs the Anaheim Ducks, the Sharks continued that trend and proved that their defense is at a championship level.


San Jose held the Ducks to zero shots in the third period of a tight game that Anaheim needed to win in order to stay close in the Pacific Division race.


Of course, defensive dominance is nothing new for the Sharks. San Jose plays a physical and relentless brand of hockey when the puck is in their defensive zone.  They outwork, outmuscle and outhustle their opponents, control the puck, and limit scoring chances. Throw in an aggressive fore-check that manhandles other teams and prevents crisp break outs for their opponents and creates scoring chances for themselves, and one can see how thier D dominates from blue line to blue line. 


The Sharks also play smart, often the best defense. 


This season the Sharks have racked up the fourth least short-handed minutes (284), keeping their opponents powerplay unit off the ice.  In those rare short-handed moments, the Sharks kill 85.2 percent of powerplays they see making them the second best penalty killers in the NHL.     


San Jose's control of their own zone and suffocating penalty kill are excellent, but the true key to the Sharks defensive success is the best defensive player in the NHL, goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov leads the league in wins, is third in shutouts, tied for third for goals against average, all while leading the league in ice time.


The All-Star netminder excels in all aspects of goaltending, even the ones that don't turn up on the stat sheets.  He rarely mishandles the puck around the net.  He is excellent at advancing the puck to create scoring chances and when needed comes up with the spectacular save.     


Simply put, Nabokov has put on a goaltending clinic this season.


Add it all up and you have a team that dominates on the road, leads the Pacific Division and is poised for a long run through the playoffs. 


After all, defense does win championships.