Reality Check: Are the San Jose Sharks Falling Back to Earth?

Scott SemmlerAnalyst IIFebruary 6, 2013

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 23:   Patrick Marleau #12, Joe Thornton #19 and Rob Blake #4 of the San Jose Sharks hang their heads as they skate into position for the faceoff during a break in late third period game action en route to a 4-0 loss the Anaheim Ducks during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center on April 23, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In the end, it was inevitable. The San Jose Sharks fast start has taken a hit in the past few games, turning a 7-0-0 start into a 7-2-1 record and losers in its last three games.

Patrick Marleau, who led the NHL with nine goals through the first five games of the season, has not scored in his last four games, yet still holds the NHL lead by one over the Buffalo Sabres’ Thomas Vanek.

Joe Thornton, who spent the first seven games of the season doing nearly everything, including finding Marleau on the majority of his goals, has given up his NHL points lead and has not tallied a point in the last four games.

While it is unfair to say the Sharks are struggling with a 7-2-1 record and a firm grasp on second place in the Western Conference, it is fair to say the Sharks are coming back to earth after playing at a level clearly above expectations.

Are the Sharks one of the best teams in the Western Conference?


However, San Jose has found recent trouble against teams that can also be considered elite in the Western Conference. The Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks outplayed the Sharks in their respective meetings and it only confirms that the Sharks still have work to do if they want to be entered back into the conversation of Stanley Cup contenders.

There have still been many positive changes that have contributed to the Sharks resurgence in the Western Conference. The new coaching staff, in particular, has been a major reason for the success with the additions of Jim Johnson and Larry Robinson. It has led to large improvements in special teams, most notably with the penalty kill, which has killed 31 consecutive penalties—good enough for fifth in the NHL at 88.9 percent. There are still relatively high worries surrounding the team’s power play of late, though something that could increasingly become an issue as the season wears on.

There has been a change of mindset on the ice for the Sharks since last season and it has led to positive changes in the win column early in the year, but the team has taken a reality check in the past three games—only fueling the need for improvement and consistency if San Jose hopes to continue to contend in the Western Conference.   

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