It’s not exactly easy for San Jose Sharks fans to gauge just how excited they should be about this 5-0 start to the season. Many will remember that last year’s team came out just as hot — sans Tomas Hertl — and won its first seven games. Then San Jose went on to lose its next seven and finish in seventh place in the Western Conference.
So, when precisely can you all start feeling like this really might be the year? Well a win tonight could help, but specifically the way the Sharks score could really do the trick.
Tuesday night’s match-up between the Sharks and St. Louis Blues is the marquee game on the NHL schedule, featuring two undefeated squads and the two highest-scoring teams in the league. San Jose has one more win than St. Louis with five and averages 0.05 more goals per game than the Blues at 4.80. St. Louis is 4-0-0 for the first time in franchise history.
The Sharks and Blues look almost like identical teams thus far this season, but one category reveals a glaring difference — the Blues are far superior to the Sharks on the power play. St. Louis leads the NHL with a 37.5 power-play percentage, compared to a San Jose effort of 21.7-percent which ranks them 14th. San Jose and St. Louis fall right next to each other on the penalty kill, ranking 19th and 20th respectively.
The power play has definitely been an issue for San Jose through five games, though the team seems to be having very little trouble scoring when the opposition is at full strength. If the Sharks scored at the same power play percentage as the Blues, they would add another three-plus goals to their season tally. Despite playing incredibly well at even strength, San Jose needs to find a way to start capitalizing on these one-man advantages because scoring goals on the 5-on-5 won’t be this simple all season long.
Sharks fans who have their reserves for feeling fired up about this season can loosen up a bit when San Jose starts scoring on the power play. St. Louis is not a necessarily superb penalty-killing squad, so the Sharks should look to break out of their funk Tuesday night. If they cannot capitalize and post another “0-for” in the power play category, those reserves for excitement should respectfully be kept.
A Sharks loss Tuesday night would not be the end of the world, but a continued struggle on the power play would. San Jose needs to take pressure of itself and score goals when they come easiest. They’ve been remarkable at even strength this season, but a more successful power play squad would open up a whole new level of Sharks hockey. That’s the level fans can get excited about.