San Jose Sharks' Most Impressive Stats Early in 2013-14
The 2013-14 San Jose Sharks have been a tale of two teams. After starting 10-1-1, the Sharks are winless in their last five, with four of those losses coming in overtime or shootout.
In spite of their recent struggles, there's plenty to be impressed by with this year's Sharks.
The offense is deadly, the goaltending is world-class and the injection of youth into what used to be a slow, immobile defense has San Jose playing a fast-paced style which rivals that of any team in the league.
Every club experiences the ebbs and flows of the lengthy regular season and the Sharks are no different. With the season is still very young, and even amidst the recent defeats, there continues to be plenty to be impressed by in San Jose.
The Cream of the Rookie Crop
What’s left to say about the league’s leading Calder Trophy candidate, Tomas Hertl?
He leads all rookies in goals, points, shooting percentage (of those with 10 or more shots) and is second with a plus-seven rating while playing on San Jose’s top line.
While the rookie still shows signs of needing to adjust to the pace and grueling travel schedule, Hertl has proven his willingness to go into high-traffic areas to get his goals. He also ranks third on the Sharks with 21 hits.
Two Players with a Negative Plus/Minus Rating
There is a lot to criticize about the plus/minus statistic—for instance, Anaheim's Dustin Penner plays 13 minutes per game and currently leads the league in this category—but when used on an entire team, the negatives must be accounted for somewhere.
This makes it only that much more impressive that, through 17 games, only two players (James Sheppard and Mike Brown) on San Jose’s consistent, night-to-night roster have a negative rating (both minus-1).
Early in the 2013-14 season, the San Jose Sharks dominated the league’s plus/minus leaders. The Sharks' recent defensive lapses, combined with their offensive struggles, have chopped San Jose’s representation in the league’s top 20 down to a pair of defensemen.
But overall, top to bottom, virtually all Sharks players' plus/minus ratings remain strong.
Worst Injury Luck in the NHL, Literally
Using Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract Luck Chart, only one team (Carolina) comes even close to the bad luck the Sharks have suffered thus far in terms of injuries. Out of the 912 periods played by San Jose players, 190—or 20.8 percent—have been lost to injury.
Of the three players who began the season on the injured reserve, only one (Martin Havlat, 36 periods missed, $5 million cap hit) has returned for San Jose.
Raffi Torres (no periods played, $2 million) and Adam Burish (no periods played, $1.875 million) remain without a timeline for return.
Dan Boyle’s (23 periods missed, $6.67 million) injury received exhaustive media attention, primarily due to its nature, but his seven-game absence came shortly before what has turned out to be a less-heralded Brent Burns (27 periods missed, $5.76 million) injury that has kept the forward out for nine games and counting.
Brad Stuart (six periods missed, $3.6 million) and Tommy Wingels (five periods missed, $775,000) both missed extended time due to injury as well.
No matter how you measure it—cap hit, ice time lost, periods missed—the Sharks have been the unluckiest team in 2013-14.
2 Unlikely Leaders
Looking at the San Jose roster, there is no shortage of premier names. Ten players on San Jose's roster were drafted in the first round, five selected with a top-10 pick.
However, it's been Joe Pavelski and Justin Braun, a pair of seventh-rounders, who have emerged as leaders for San Jose.
Pavelski may not be as surprising as Braun, but given the company the Sharks keep up front, his place atop the scoring charts is impressive.
Roughly half of Pavelski’s points have come on the Sharks’ potent power play, but his even-strength production keeps pace with that of forwards like Logan Couture and Joe Thornton, who play on lines with more offensive help.
Braun has become the team’s surprise ice time leader, logging over 22 minutes per game, including heavy penalty-kill time. This is the first season in which the Sharks have put continued, consistent responsibility on Braun. His agility and quick puck distribution exemplify San Jose’s uptempo style of play.
Toothless in Shootouts
San Jose may reside in the West, but in a region known for duels and gunslingers, the Sharks tend to arrive without bullets. Despite all of their regulation success in 2013-14, the Sharks are just 1-4 in shootouts.
To add insult to injury, the team has scored a measly three goals in the shootout—all of which have been scored by Logan Couture.
Aside from Couture, seven players are a combined 0-for-12.
Antti Niemi has been average in net, saving 12 of 18 attempts, but the troubles at the other end have required Niemi to be perfect in order to be successful, which he was in the Sharks' lone shootout victory—remember this save against Detroit?
Not the kind of impressive San Jose is looking for, but surprising nonetheless.
San Jose has yet to find the key to consistency on both ends in the shootout since its inception in 2005. In the three seasons when San Jose ranked in the top 10 in shooting percentage (2006-09), the team’s save percentage has ranged from 16th to dead last.
Since Niemi’s arrival two seasons ago, San Jose has finished third and fifth in save percentage, but the team’s shooters have only managed to score on roughly one out of three attempts, leaving the team in the bottom half of the league in shooting percentage.
Despite the statistical disparity, the Sharks have still managed to win the most shootouts over the last two seasons (17), proving that goaltending wins shootouts.
Unless the NHL changes the rules and allows one player to take all of a team's shots, however, the Sharks are going to need to find some help for Couture.