In 1992, Mötley Crüe sang “Home, Sweet Home.”
Fifteen years later, those lyrics could not be further from the truth when describing the first half of the 2007-08 season for the San Jose Sharks.
Although the Sharks' season has not gone as smoothly as some may have expected, after 42 games they find themselves sitting second in the conference, and tied for first in tight Pacific Division with four games in hand on the Stars and Ducks, their closest competitors.
But forget about home-ice advantage for this year’s Sharks. San Jose dead last in the NHL with 7-9-4 record in 20 games at home. In fact only five NHL teams have a losing record at home.
However, whatever it is the Sharks are lacking at home, they certainly possess it when playing away from HP Pavilion. With a 16-3-2 road record, they have gained 34 road points, which is two road points more than the soon-to-be legendary 07-08 Detroit Red Wings.
As far as the players go, Joe Thornton has been his usual self, playing in all of the Sharks games this year and collecting 13 goals, 33 assists and 46 points. The next highest point total from a Shark comes from youngster Milan Michalek, who has 24.
The 22-point discrepancy between the top and second-place scorer on the Sharks is tied for the highest variance in the league—Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa have 60 and 38 points, respectively.
This season has been somewhat of a disappointment for veterans Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo. Coming off solid seasons following the lockout they were expected to shoulder quite a load for the Sharks, which makes their first half slump that much more surprising.
Strong first-half performances have been put in by youngsters Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Christian Ehrhoff from the back end, and also by rookies Devin Setoguchi and Torrey Mitchell. The Sharks seem to have a knack for drafting players who quickly exceed expectations, such as Vlasic, Mitchell, and Joe Pavelski—all of whom fit into the Sharks' game plan quite nicely.
Newly named All-Star (along with Thornton) Evgeni Nabokov has had a very good first half. He leads the NHL with 23 wins and his 2.01 GAA is fourth in the league. Doug Wilson has traded both Mikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala away, claiming both times he kept the best goaltender on his team. Nabokov is making his GM look very good. Oh by the way, the Sharks as a whole have the second-best goals against this season.
As we look ahead to the second half, it is worth noting that if the Sharks are able to play well with some consistency at home while continuing their red-hot play on the road they should have no problem securing home-ice advantage for the playoffs.
The question is: Do they really want it?