San Jose Sharks' Early-Season Stock Report
Once 7-0-0, the San Jose Sharks have now fallen to 7-3-3 and losers in their last six games.
The early season has already seen the best and worst of the Sharks, with the improved penalty kill leading the way, and the offense becoming a relative unknown during the recent bad stretch of games. Through the first seven games, San Jose tallied 29 goals. In six straight losses, the team has managed just seven.
It has been that kind of season so far in San Jose.
However, being one of the top teams in the Western Conference was a far cry from what was expected of the team this season after a rather disappointing 2011-12 campaign. The defense is improved, but the scoring has tapered off, something to keep an eye on as the shortened season progresses.
Here are the players and units whose stock is up and whose stock is down in the already tumultuous season for the Sharks.
Stock Up: Penalty Kill
There is a new mentality on the penalty kill for the Sharks this season.
After killing 36 straight penalties, falling nine short of the franchise record of 45, the Sharks are still operating with a new confidence down a man. San Jose ranked 29th in penalty kill percentage last season, now they're sixth in the league at 87 percent.
The success can be attributed to the new coaching staff brought in by head coach Todd McLellan. Larry Robinson, in particular, has made a point to improve the penalty kill with a new aggressive approach. It seems to be the only thing holding the Sharks up at the moment, as the offense continues to sputter.
Stock Up: Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau was nearly automatic through the first five games of the season, tallying nine goals in that time, including four straight two-goal games to start the year.
While the Sharks' offense has become non-existent as of late, with the inconsistency of Marleau's top line leading the way, he has still been the only offense for the Sharks to start the season. He scored his 10th goal of the year on Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Stock Up: Antti Niemi
For a time there, it looked as though backup goalie Thomas Greiss was ready for the bright lights of the NHL. That changed with a six-goal thrashing at the hands of the Western Conference's worst team, the Blue Jackets.
Niemi is the man in net for the Sharks, and his year could not have gotten off to a better start after offseason concerns about the No. 1 goaltender in San Jose. Through 10 starts, Niemi has posted a 6-1-3 record with a .935 save percentage, helping he Sharks to fifth in the NHL in goals allowed with 2.1 per game.
He has only lost once in regulation, but the three overtime losses came in games in which Niemi held the opponent to two or fewer goals. It is safe to say the Sharks' problem at the moment is the offense, not the man in net.
Stock Down: Ryane Clowe
It seems like Ryane Clowe has been in the penalty box more than on the ice this season.
In 13 games, he has logged 56 penalty minutes, including a 35 PIM night against the Canucks in late January.
Coincidentally, Clowe is in a contract year, making his bad start even more of a blow to his status in the NHL.
He has zero goals and six assists so far this season.
Stock Down: The Offense
All members of the Sharks' offense can take the blame for this one. While goalie Antti Niemi and the San Jose defense has put up some of the best numbers in the NHL, it has been the offense that has taken the team back to normalcy over the past six games.
Joe Thornton has just one assist in the last seven games, Logan Couture has just one point in his last six games and Joe Pavelski is the Sharks' most consistent force on offense with two goals in his last six games.
The hot start on the top line has gone through a drought, only forgiven by the fact they were off to one of the best starts in franchise history.
While the San Jose defense is much improved, the inconsistency of the Sharks' offense continues to be an area worth keeping an eye on.
Stock Down: Brent Burns
The defense for the Sharks has been fine without arguably their best defenseman.
Brent Burns is still recovering from offseason groin surgery that continues to limit his time on the ice. The 27-year-old returned to the ice on Saturday against the Coyotes for 20:38 of ice time, then again on Monday for 19:05, but did not play in Tuesday's game against the Nashville Predators.
While Burns' progress towards returning to full health continues, the San Jose defense has been particularly impressive through 13 games this season. Younger players like Matt Irwin, as well as the return of Jason Demers, have stepped up in Burns' early-season absence.
With the team's defense playing its best hockey in several seasons, Burns' return to the ice better keep the D at top level or he will receive some flack for the change in mindset with him on the ice.
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