San Jose Sharks: Goal Setting for a Hot Start
Th San Jose Sharks come into the 2011-12 season a calm and focused group.
However, don't let their calmness fool you. They are fired up and ready to take a quick lead on their competition straight out of the gate.
The first month of the season is an important one for this year's Sharks, and it breaks down into three parts.
Opening Night and Nearly a Week off
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The Sharks open the season hosting their Pacific division rival Coyotes of Phoenix in the Shark tank this Saturday night.
All eyes will be on new Sharks Brent Burns and Martin Havlat. Expect Burns at least to put on a show. He's been active all preseason and could be a star of this game.
The absence of former Coyotes goaltender and Shark Killer Ilya Bryagalov will be noticeable, although in the NHL any goalie can have a hot night and shut a team down, especially on opening night.
Whether the Sharks win or lose, it's the near week off they get that is important.
It is significant because it give the Sharks additional time to rest up before the late month road trip while only making them hungrier for action.
Don't expect this early time off to be all rest though as coach Todd McLellan is determined to keep his team on the hook early in the season.
This time will be used to fine tune the execution in practice and find chemistry among a new look team. That takes work. A lot of work.
By the time this session of practices is over, the Sharks players (and fans) will be chomping at the bit for the next bit of regular season action.
Three Games in Four Nights in California
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That first game back will be in Anaheim against Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks.
This kicks off a home and home series between the two teams with the St. Louis Blues coming into San Jose in the middle of the three game set.
Expect the Sharks to be primed and ready to take on their hated rival Ducks. With three travel days ahead of them, a strong performance and maximum effort shown here can earn a light practice between the travel days.
A sweep of this three game set can also lessen the pressure on the road trip to come. Although don't expect McLellan to let off the gas on these guys just yet.
An Early Trip to the East Coast
Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara
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New Jersey will be looking for a quick start to their own season after their late season push last year fell short of the playoffs in a disappointing fashion. Expect to see Colin White suit up for the Sharks in this one to play his former team.
After playing current Stanley Cup holder Boston, the Sharks will venture to Nashville to take on a pesky, physical, no quit Predators team.
Then on to Joe Louis Arena where Detroit fans and players alike will be looking for revenge after the Red Wings were eliminated in the playoffs by the Sharks two years in a row .
The very next night will be in Long Island to take on future star John Tavares and the New York Islanders before crossing over to Manhattan to finish the road trip up in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers and old nemesis Brad Richards.
That's six games on the road in 11 days and a possible 12 points up for grabs. Set a goal for 9-10 points on this road swing and that's the kind of start the Sharks are looking for in the first month of the season.
Setting the Goals
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The first month of the season will feature 10 games with 20 points up for grabs.
How the Sharks are playing is what's ultimately important. If they're playing hard and to their potential from the beginning then 14-16 points is a fair goal to set.
That's winning a minimum of seven of the first ten games against a wide spectrum of teams across a league that is now more competitive than ever.
It will be important to win all the games they're supposed to win in regulation (St. Louis, Phoenix, NY Islanders), while finding a way to get the two points against the more competitive teams (Anaheim, Nashville) and squeezing points out of two of the top teams in the league (Detroit and Boston).
It takes just one stride at a time and ultimately letting go and detaching themselves of the results. Play the right way, and as Bill Walsh preached, the score will take care of itself.