Things are looking up for hockey fans in the Bay Area.
The San Jose Sharks are trotting an All-Star laced first line, and their supporting lines also appear to be getting the job done. A relief, after these secondary lines could only be found on the back of milk cartons during last year’s playoffs.
But, as The Wolf so famously said in the cult classic movie Pulp Fiction, “Let’s not start sucking each other’s [expletive] just yet.”
This early season success is not uncommon ground for San Jose, and while the Sharks explosive start this season feels slightly different than it did last season, through 25 games the 2008-09 Sharks actually lifted off to a much more productive beginning.
Last year though, at this point in the season, San Jose was scoring goals at a 3.88 per game clip, .56 goals per game better than they are currently posting this season.
But as we all know, this didn’t translate into any type of playoff success.
Maybe it’s the Sharks goaltending that is making the difference.
Actually, through 25 games, San Jose’s goaltending this year is at the same exact point as they were last year, allowing 2.36 goals per game.
Then what is it…what could be giving Sharks fans the extra confidence that has many already crowing them as the deserving Stanley Cup Champs?
It could be their success on special teams.
This year’s Sharks are seeing a slight improvement on both the power play and penalty kill compared to last year’s numbers.
The 2008-09 Sharks converted their power plays 22.5 percent of the time, while this year’s squad is posting a league leading 25.5 percent with the extra man.
The penalty kill is also on the rise. Last year at this point in the season, the Sharks were impressively killing 84.4 percent while down a man, but this season they stepped it up even more, ranking second in the NHL with an 85 percent kill rate.
But as the Sharks showed last year in the playoffs, these numbers can be thrown out the window. Despite their regular season success on the power play, San Jose’s extra man attack put up a pathetic 16.6-percent (4-for-24) against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
Some will point out that the offseason additions should bolster the Sharks meager past playoff performances. And if they are just talking about Dany Heatley, then these critics wouldn’t exactly be wrong.
In 34 playoff games, Heatley has 35 points (10G, 25A), which is music to the ears of those who have painfully watched Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau wither to their playoff kryptonite the past few seasons.
But the importance of secondary lines should not be lost, even with adding Heatley into the mix.
As Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry showed last season, it isn’t impossible to silence a Sharks powerful first line with equal or greater force, truly testing the depth of San Jose’s roster.
Manny Malhorta, Scot Nicol, and Jed Ortmeyer were brought in to bolster these energy lines, but their lack of experience in the postseason should not be quickly overlooked just because of their early season success.
The three offseason acquisitions combine for 32 playoff games and in those games they have only produced two points (2G).
This hardly instills the confidence that these players could be the difference maker when this year’s playoffs eventually come around.
To add even more worry, the shuffling of rookies on San Jose’s roster only produces more questions about how this season’s version of the Sharks will reacted when every shift means your playoff life.
While I am extremely optimistic about where this season is going, it is still way too early to start thinking that this season will be any different from what the Sharks have shown us in the past.
Until they can prove that these early achievement can finally translate into playoffs success, the Bay Area should keep their dreams of taking a sip out of Lord Stanley’s Cup to a minimum.