San Jose Sharks: 5 Things Team Must Do Compete for Stanley Cup
San Jose Sharks: 5 Areas In Need Of Execution On Road To Success
The San Jose Sharks did a lot of things right in 2012-13, however, they failed to execute in a few areas. Improvements and corrections will be needed in order for San Jose to win the first Stanley Cup in the franchise's existence.
This season could be one of the best chances San Jose has ever had to bring home a Stanley Cup Championship. The Sharks are still gaining notoriety from national pundits, despite their semi-disappointing seventh place in the Western Conference last year. A lot of this comes from their performance in last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs: a sweep of the Vancouver Canucks and loss to the defending Champions Los Angeles Kings in a thrilling seven game series.
Captain Joe Thornton has never won a Stanley Cup, and his years are beginning to dwindle down. He most definitely knows this year is his best chance at lifting the most coveted trophy in sports. He leads the best trio of centers in the NHL, alongside Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. The Sharks will need to feed off the leadership of this trio to improve the offensive slump the team exhibited in 2012-13 — 116 total goals, good enough for 24th in the NHL.
Success in 2013-14 begins and ends with the continued outstanding play of goalie Antti Niemi. The former All-Star put together a worthy resume for the Vezina Award last season, and he will need to play just as well this year. He doesn't wear a "C" or an "A" on his jersey, but he has emerged as a co-captain of this Sharks squad.
Here are five things the Sharks must do to be successful in 2013-14.
5. Score More Frequently
It's easy to say that in order for a team to be more successful it needs to score more goals, but this is definitely the case for the San Jose Sharks. The team ranked fourth in the NHL with 31.8 shots per game, yet was 24th in the league with 116 total goals. The players have no problem getting the shots off, but finding the back of the net was a bit of a problem last season. The Sharks will need to score at a much higher rate to have a successful 2013-14 season.
4. Continued Leadership From Trio Of Centers
There truly isn't a better group of three centers in the NHL than Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. The trio averaged 36 points during the 48-game shortened 2012-13 season. Each center will lead their respective lines this season, and the Sharks will need to look to their leadership to bring home some wins. This is especially the case for Pavelski, who will undoubtedly be the offensive captain of the third line.
It's all about line balance in the NHL, and the Sharks have the best trio of centers in the game. Their continued successful supervision and control of the offense will be vital for San Jose this upcoming season.
3. Maintain High Penalty Kill Percentage
The Sharks did a wonderful job in 2012-13 killing the power play, ranking sixth in the NHL at 85 percent. Albeit, the team had the 27th most time short handed with 147; the power play kill unit's performance was superb. Perhaps the Sharks will see even less short-handed minutes now that Raffi Torres will miss the first three to four months of the season. Either way, San Jose will need to continue preventing opposing teams from scoring easy goals.
2. Erase Short-Handed Goals Allowed
One of the most annoying and distressing mistakes in hockey is allowing a short-handed goal. The Sharks' power play units were successful in 2012-13, ranking tied for fifth in the NHL with 34 power play goals. However, San Jose tied for second with four short-handed goals allowed. Nothing can kill the rhythm or confidence of team more than allowing a goal during a time when you have more men on the ice than the other team. Sure, four goals isn't that many, but they are the football equivalent of turning the ball over at the opposing team's one yard line. The Sharks will need to find a way to iron out that problem.
1. Stay Hot, Antti Niemi
Goalie Antti Niemi could have very easily won the Vezina Trophy in 2013, but he was beat out by Sergei Bobrivsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He finished tied for first in the NHL with 24 wins, seventh in save percentage at .924, and was sixth in shutouts with four.
Niemi is one of, if not the most, important players for the San Jose Sharks this season. He was first in the NHL last year with 2,581 total minutes, and his ice time is likely to increase, with former backup Thomas Greiss now with the Phoenix Coyotes. Niemi will need to continue his stellar net-minding in order for the Sharks to have a successful 2013-14 season.