There are a lot of powerhouse teams in the Western Conference.
We are talking about teams like the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames and so on and so forth. Heck, after really slow starts, both the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers have bounced back and currently own the two Wild Card spots.
One team that is not getting talked about are the San Jose Sharks. Year in and year out, this is a playoff hockey team, one that even made the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 only to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Last year was another solid season for the Sharks. They had a good regular season, won a round in the playoffs, and were then promptly knocked out by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round.
No one was really talking about them prior to this season. The club plays in a tough Pacific Division, a very tight Western Conference, and is now really just a pretty good hockey team as opposed to an elite one.
After a slow start, the Sharks appear to be right back in the mix in both their division and conference. As of this writing, the team is 19-12-5, good for second in the Pacific and are just four points behind the division-leading Flames.
One reason for their turnaround is the fact that they can put the puck in the net. The team is currently seventh in the league in goals scored with 119 goals in 36 games, which means they are averaging just over three goals per game.
Leading the way for the Sharks is goal-scoring machine Joe Pavelski. He currently has 22 goals, which already matches his total from last season.
Pavelski, 34, can beat opposing netminders in many different ways. He can deflect pucks (he might be the best in the game at that), he can bang in rebounds, he has a terrific wrist shot, and he can beat goaltenders with his underrated slap shot.
Following Pavelski in goals are guys like Timo Meier (18), Logan Couture (13), Evander Kane (11), and Tomas Hertl (10). In total, this team has five forwards with at least 10 goals, with a few not far behind.
Another reason why this team is playing well is because of their power play. The team is currently eighth in the league with the man advantage as they have converted 24.3 percent of their power plays.
This team has also done an incredible job of killing penalties. They are currently third in the league in that category as they have killed off 85.7 percent of the penalties they have taken this season.
Something that does need to improve this season is the play of their number one goaltender, Martin Jones. As of December 21, Jones, 28, is 14-8-3 (not bad) with a 2.86 goals-against average (bad), .898 save percentage (very bad for a starting goaltending), and one shutout.
If this team wants to make the playoffs and have success in them, Jones needs to play a lot better. if that does not happen, they may end up missing the playoffs if both his and the team’s overall pay goes south.
The good news for this team is that they are playing well right now and have won seven of their last ten games. That’s the good news.
With that said, if they want to keep pace in their division and their conference, it’s going to need to stay that way from now until April if they want things to stay that way.
Photo: NBC Sports (Bay Area)