Biggest Takeaways from San Jose Sharks' Start to the 2013-14 Season
The Sharks have played three games so far and have looked very impressive. San Jose is 3-0-0 and has outscored opponents 17-4.
Here is a look at the five biggest takeaways from the start of the San Jose Sharks' 2013-14 season.
Feel free to comment on these or to add a takeaway you feel belongs on this list. As always, please mention why you feel your choice belongs on the list.
5. Special Teams Have the Potential to Be Special
In the early going, the Sharks' special teams have been pretty special. The power play is 4-of-15, which is a solid 26.7 percent success rate.
Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun have scored one goal with the man-advantage, while rookie Tomas Hertl has a pair.
After the first game, the Sharks moved the puck well, making cross-ice passes that set up quality scoring opportunities. The penalty kill is 8-of-10 for an 80 percent success rate, and they have scored one shorthanded goal.
Having assistant coach Larry Robinson on the team has been a big help for the penalty kill. Robinson was a Hall of Fame defenseman with the Canadiens and Kings, and his knowledge and experience has been a big benefit for the club.
It's early, but the Sharks' special teams are off to a solid start.
4. Antti Niemi Is Picking Up Where He Left off
Goalie Antti Niemi is clearly a key to the success of Team Teal this season. Niemi was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2012-13 after enjoying a career year.
Thus far, the Finnish netminder has started all three games and has allowed only four goals. The only time he allowed more than one goal was in the game against New York, and by the time the second goal was scored, the game was already well out of reach for the Rangers.
Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a .938 save percentage.
Obviously, this is a small sample size, but it is clear Niemi is off to a fast start and appears to be picking up where he left off last season when he was one of the top goalies in the league.
3. Brent Burns Is a Big Help at Forward
Last season, Brent Burns made the difficult switch from defenseman to forward. That move seemed to jump-start the Sharks down the stretch and aided their strong finish to the season.
In the first three games of the season, Burns has continued to be an effective forward. Playing on a line with Joe Thornton and rookie Tomas Hertl, Burns adds size and has quick hands that make him a strong passer and a dangerous scoring threat.
Burns has a goal and an assist and is second on the team with seven hits. He is also second on the club with a plus-five rating.
He has also been very involved offensively, taking 10 shots on goal in three contests.
Burns adds size to the top line and combines that with the speed that gives both he and his teammates extra room to maneuver on the ice. He blew by the defensemen on the goal he scored this year, using his speed and stick-handling ability to create a scoring chance and using his quick hands to convert it.
If Burns continues to play well, it only adds to the list of weapons opponents have to beware of when they play San Jose.
2. The Sharks Have Changed Their Style of Offense
One thing that has jumped out after three games is the transition the Sharks have made offensively.
A few years ago, the offense mostly revolved around Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton with the rest of the players taking supporting roles.
Now, the team has made a transition and brought in other scoring threats with an emphasis on increasing team speed.
New forward Tyler Kennedy's best asset is his skating ability. Matt Nieto and Tomas Hertl are two rookies who also have good foot speed and add offensive potential.
The Sharks are an aggressive forechecking team now, and they are effectively creating scoring chances.
In their first three games, the Sharks are outshooting their opponents 133-65. This means that San Jose is taking more than twice as many shots as their opponents. While this doesn't guarantee victory, it does increase the odds a great deal.
The Sharks are averaging 44.3 shots per game. While it's highly unlikely they can keep up this torrid pace, it shows how effective the San Jose attack has been. When you add the fact that their opponents thus far include the Canucks, Coyotes and Rangers—teams that are not known as poor defensively—these numbers are even more impressive.
1. Tomas Hertl Has Super Skills
Everybody's talking about rookie Tomas Hertl. The 19-year-old native of the Czech Republic doesn't speak much English, but he clearly possesses impressive skills and is ready to play in the NHL.
In three games, Hertl has already scored six goals, including a four-goal effort against the Rangers earlier this week.
The fourth goal is already a shoo-in for the best goal of the year and can be seen on the video above.
Hertl scored by going behind his body and between his skates, a move that is difficult to execute and impressive enough when done during a shootout when there are no defenders. Hertl did it during play when there were defenders on the ice.
While long-term success is not guaranteed, Hertl appears ready to make an impact in the NHL. Playing on a line with one of the league's best passers in Joe Thornton and a big, skilled winger like Brent Burns will only help aid Hertl's transition.
Right now, Hertl is the talk of the league. Fans are wondering what he can possibly do for an encore.