As Jen has already observed, the San Jose Sharks are an interesting team.Despite housing a stable of elite talent over the years, the Stanley Cup continues to elude them. Let's forget about winning Stanley Cups for a moment. The Sharks can't even seem to get to get a Stanley Cup berth. (I try to avoid Sharks fans, but I'm sure they're still cursing the stanchion from the 2011 Western Conference Finals). They had a brief and unremarkable playoff run last year, and it seemed as though their Stanley Cup window had closed. They were in the midst of a major identity crisis.
This is why their 2013 success has been so surprising (to me, at least). Until their shootout loss to Nashville on Saturday, the Sharks had been undefeated. And they still haven't lost in regulation. We seemed to have their number last season, but I'm concerned that the trend has been reversed. Despite playing very well against them last Tuesday (and out-shooting the Sharks 30-18), we still lost in a shootout.
The Bruce Boudreau Line Generator appears to have settled on several effective line combinations - specifically, the second and the fourth. Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin have made an effective defensive pairing. But the absence of Cam Fowler is troubling. Before the Stoll incident on Saturday, Fowler was poised for a breakout season. His play at both ends of the ice has been responsible, and he's also bailed out Bryan Allen on numerous occasions. Will the Sharks exploit Allen's weaknesses, or will he be forced to simplify his game in Fowler's absence? I guess we'll know in a few hours.
Both Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller have allowed some soft goals this season, but I'm not seriously concerned about either. I am concerned about our special teams, though. Our power play will have to be sharper that the Sharks' penalty kill. And as usual, we will have to shut down Ryan Getzlaf's spiritual doppleganger, Joe Thornton (and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture and Martin Havlat).
I leave you with one word: FOWL!