The San Jose Sharks are back on the road after a brief two-game homestand.
Not that it matters—they just keep winning. After a slow start to the season (3-3-0-1), they are red hot, winning five in a row and seven of eight and moving up to the second-best record in the Western Conference.
They are also tied for the second most wins on the road, thanks in part to a scheduling quirk that has them playing twice as many games to this point away from the Shark Tank as they have played in it.
For the remainder of November, they have only five more games at home and eight on the road.
The Sharks also continue to get contributions from players who do not figure to get much action when the games really matter. Logan Couture had his first point of his NHL career, and players like Ryan Vesce and Jody Shelley have multiple assists.
In Sunday's game, Douglas Murray and Kent Huskins got their first goals of the season. On Friday, Ryan Clowe and Jamie McGinn got theirs. Earlier in the week, it was Manny Malhotra netting his first two, and Jed Ortmeyer added his third.
At the same time, the Sharks top players are also producing:
- Patrick Marleau has 15 points in an eight-game point streak, including six goals. He is now tied for second in the league in points with 21 and in goals with 11.
- Dany Heatley is tied for sixth in goals with nine and 10th in points at 16.
- Joe Thornton leads the league with 16 assists and is tied for fifth with 19 points.
- Dan Boyle is tied for seventh with 11 assists, second among defencemen.
When the Sharks had injuries last spring, the offence floundered. This year they have shown more adaptability during this stretch without Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell.
Finding different ways to win was something they never learned last season while they were dominating opponents en route to the President's Trophy.
In at least one of the last three games, they have been both on the winning and losing end of shots on goal, hits, and blocked shots.
Overall, they held a 101-80 edge in shots and a 69-66 edge in hits.
They also won all three contests in the faceoff circle, with between 58 and 61.9 percent of faceoffs won; they lead the league in faceoff winning percentage.
But the strength of the Sharks during this run has been in net. Evgeni Nabokov has allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts, including one that went through overtime and featured him stoning five of the six Kings faced in a shootout.
Because of this, he has raised his save percentage to .915 for the season and lowered his goals-against average to 2.48.
However, there are a couple statistics they are going to need to bolster to win consistently: San Jose had only 37 blocked shots to 58 for their opponents, and they lost in both giveaways (29-14 overall) and takeaways (15-27 overall) in all three games.
While a large factor in both of those stats is the superior time on attack, there is no doubt other teams are putting more effort into blocking shots and doing a better job taking care of the puck.
San Jose also has only scored first in four of 15 games this season, and it is never a good idea to play from behind consistently.
This problem is puzzling considering their fifth-ranked offence (3.40 GSA) and seventh-ranked defence (2.47 GAA). They also possess top-tier special teams—a sixth-ranked power play (25 percent efficiency) and penalty kill (85 percent).
The Sharks next chance to show improvement in those areas comes at Columbus Wednesday at 4 p.m. PST. San Jose beat Columbus in the fourth game of the season 6-3 at the Shark Tank.