Continuing with our new tradition of interviewing the enemy before a game, we say hello to Derek, the new Managing Editor over at Fear the Fin.
JN: Why the hell are you guys so good right now?? Don't you have pretty much the same lineup as last year? We sucked last year but still managed to take the season series 5-1. I don't get it.
FTF: That's a good question.
The Sharks did essentially bring back the same group of players that stumbled to a 7th place finish and first-round exit last year. In fact, as ridiculous as it might sound, their underlying play also hasn't really changed from the latter stages of 2011-12.
With Brent Burns and his unkempt facial hair on the sidelines, they've actually been slightly worse at controlling play and owning the neutral zone than they were during their extended futility streak that dropped them from leading the Pacific to being in a dogfight for a playoff spot last season.
The difference is that everything that was going wrong for this team in 2012 (which was pretty much everything) has gone in their favor through eight games in 2013. The penalty kill has been their Achilles' heel since 2010 but it's been magnificent so far this season. Where they couldn't buy an even-strength goal despite generating a boatload of chances on a nightly basis last year, their 5v5 shooting percentage has been one of the highest in the league. Antti Niemi has gone from average starting goalie to Jacques Plante incarnate.
Just like I never thought the Sharks' woeful second-half record last season was truly indicative of their talent level, I don't at all expect this hot streak to last. But it sure has been a fun ride.
JN: When Patrick Marleau eventually hits his every season scoring slump, will the trigger actually be pulled and he will be traded?
FTF: I hope not. Despite his reputation, Marleau really isn't the maddeningly inconsistent player the media always attempts to paint him as. He was the fifth-highest playoff scorer between lockouts and only Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin have scored more regular season goals than him since 2008.
Even the distribution of his goal-scoring, a frequent target for criticism, isn't any streakier than most other players. He's also routinely trusted by Todd McLellan to shoulder the burden of some of the toughest defensive minutes on the team. He's just plain great at hockey whether his critics want to admit it or not. Doug Wilson is well aware of Marleau's value to this team and I really can't envision him asking Marleau to waive his NTC at any point in the near future.
FTF: Ducks fans. I can't say I'm fond of either group (except for Jer at BoC, he seems like he isn't the worst) but at least Kings fans were even more long-suffering than we were until last year so there's some modicum of solidarity there. Of course, now that they have a Cup too I feel like I can't pick sides anymore. I just hate everyone.
[Ed. Note: We win! Woohoo!]