5 Things the San Jose Sharks Did Right in November
The poor start to the season is a distant memory for the San Jose Sharks.
November is coming to a close, and the Sharks posted a 7-3-1 record. They now have a 13-7-1 record and are just two points behind the Dallas Stars for the Pacific Division lead. They've played three less games than both the Stars and Los Angeles Kings, who are one point ahead of the Sharks.
They're in seventh place in the Western Conference, but only four points behind the Chicago Blackhawks, but with three less games played. In fact, the Sharks have played the fewest amount of games in the conference, so no need to worry there.
But capturing 15 points this month is great heading into December. Here are some of the things the Sharks did right this month.
In the month of November, the Sharks tallied a total of 29 goals, not including those in the shootout. That's pretty good in 11 games, averaging about 2.64 goals a game.
The offensive leaders are where they need to be. Joe Pavelski now has 11 goals, Patrick Marleau has 10, Logan Couture has seven and Joe Thornton has 21 points.
The Sharks have gotten some nice secondary scoring, as defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic put up the bulk of his two goals and nine assists this month.
Aside from Couture, Marleau, Pavelski and Thornton, the Sharks have three players in double digit points. They are Dan Boyle, Ryane Clowe and Vlasic. Another defenseman, Brent Burns, has four goals.
The only iffy thing on the Sharks offense is that they got shutout twice this month, and have lost despite heavily out-shooting opponents.
But goalies like Mike Smith, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Quick have been amazing, and the results would have likely been similar for any other team.
The Sharks are fine on offense, they've really awakened this month.
In November, the Sharks have only allowed 22 goals, which is a great two goals against per game.
In addition to the goaltending, the defense deserves loads of credit. They started off slow in the beginning, but during a four-game stretch, the Sharks have only given up four goals.
The Sharks only have four negative players in the goal differential rating, the lowest being a minus four.
Colin White and Jason Demers are the only negative defenseman currently. Vlasic leads the whole team in rating, with a plus-11.
If the Sharks continue to play well defensively in front of Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss, this team will keep rolling.
This sort of ties into the solid defense factor, but it's also been goaltending that's helped the Sharks keep an average of just two goals against a game this month. The duo of Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss has been spectacular so far. Niemi has a 0.922 save percentage, and 2.35 goals against average in nine games played this season.
Greiss, the backup, is doing a great job in the absence of the injured Antero Niittymaki. He holds a .929 save percentage and a 1.99 GAA.
It's a big help when your backup is able to put up those numbers, so if Greiss keeps up the good work, the Sharks have a nice option past Niemi.
Better Goaltending Management
In the past, Coach Todd McLellan hasn't managed his goaltenders pretty well. Last season, Niemi got far more playing time than Niittymaki, and it cost the Sharks in the playoffs.
This month though, McLellan has done a bit of a better job. In the 11 games the Sharks played in November, Greiss has seen action three times. He got two starts and played most of the game against the Penguins, in which Niemi got pulled.
If McLellan keeps giving Greiss a few starts here and there, Niemi will be that much better in the playoffs, in all likeliness.
Once Niittymaki comes back, there's another reliable goaltender for McLellan to turn to.
While Greiss still isn't getting as many starts as I'd like to see (I would've liked to see Greiss start four games this month,) McLellan is getting somewhere.
The Sharks Are Finding Ways to Win
When it all comes down to it, the Sharks are just finding ways to win hockey games. That's the important thing.
You don't get points for effort, evidenced by the Vancouver game.
But still, the Sharks have won seven of eleven games, and they have gotten points in eight of eleven games.
Like money in the economy, points is what makes the NHL go around.
The Sharks need to keep winning like they did in November—whether its with Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, the whole offense, the fourth line, the defense, Antti Niemi—you get the point.
No pun intended.
If the Sharks keep up what was working for them in November, they'll surely continue to climb the standings at a remarkable pace.