Petshark: Talking Stick
by petshark on 01/12/12 at 05:30 PM ET
One of the things that stuck out for me in the Sharks’ Tuesday loss to Minnesota was how many times Niemi got run into or buried under bodies. He seems like a sturdy fellow but that has to be kind of tough on a goalie. That’s a special kind of failure to defend. That was just one symptom of breakdowns from the Sharks. There were enough such to have McLellan shuffling the lines and looking very cross. I just hope Niemi didn’t get banged up, bent wrong or otherwise harmed under there.
The television cameras gave us a good indication of why Ryane Clowe will be wearing a cage for the next week. Apparently the treatment of bleeding noses makes good tv.
Of course the last-minute comeback to push the game to overtime was fun also. That those goals came from the team’s usual suspects made me wonder about a couple of things.
Teams with players in top 20 for points: (standing in league/conference) (2/1)Vancouver: 2, (14/7)Toronto: 2, (6/4)Philly: 1, (25/13)TB: 1, (19/9)Pitt: 1, (5/4)Chicago: 3, (8/5)Ottawa: 2, (27/13)Edmonton: 1, (23/11)Buffalo: 2, (7/5)Detroit: 1, (16/9)Dallas: 1, (11/3)Florida: 1
Teams with players in top 20 for plus/minus: (3/2)Boston: 9, (1/1)NYR: 1, (5/4)Chicago: 2, (7/5)Detroit: 4, (4/2)St Louis: 1, (6/4)Philly: 1, (9/3)San Jose: 1, (2/1)Vancouver: 1
So far this season, only one Shark is in the top 20 in these categories.
Boyle is still/again leading the team in ice time, but at least he isn’t leading the league right now. Who really needs to do that? He’s also leading the Sharks’ blue line in points, but is only 16th in the league.
Why did I look that up? The Sharks aren’t quite half way through their schedule, but it’s close. We know they are leading the Pacific in the ultimate result, points and wins. They’re 3rd in the West, 9th in the League. But how did they get there? Does it matter? Yes and no?
Any list that has Buffalo even with Vancouver, or Edmonton even with Detroit, can’t mean much. While plus/minus numbers are notoriously unreliable, I think when you have 9 players in the top 20 that probably means something, something like you’re winning almost all of your games, have had a few shutouts and a few blowouts… yeah, seeing Boston’s record I get a warm fuzzy feeling between my toes, like athlete’s foot.
Anyway, the Sharks only have one player in those top 20s. Why did I pick top 20? I could have picked top 30 and the result would have been much the same. And yet… the team is doing okay. So does it matter how many individual Sharks are up in the standings?
Yes: those individual player rankings could be important
The more guys you have who are playing better than most guys in the league, well, the better your team is likely to do, right? Certainly if your team has a representative on all of those lists, that is better still. So having fewer is bad, it could suggest that you are getting by on luck and not scoring ability.
Maybe you have a tremendous goalie who is carrying the team.
Well, we know that isn’t exactly true. The Sharks have done pretty well defensively, which is kind of like being carried by a goalie because you need fewer goals and this means you can win without breaking any scoring records, career, season, or other. Lately this has been less true. Their goals against are creeping up.
It could also mean the Sharks are poised to make a jump, because we know there are a few guys on the team perfectly capable of scoring, a lot. One or two of them going crazy would give the team a big bump, even though they don’t exactly need that bump- they are doing okay already.
Or the team could get some power back in its power play. That would be wonderful, would be nice to have as the season goes on. The Sharks are doing okay without it. Imagine what they’d do with it.
The thing is, you never know what the trade-off might be. It’s a lot like a bird in the hand versus two in the bush. You don’t want to let go of what you have on the off chance you can get more. That usually leaves you empty handed, not two-fisted.
What do they have in hand right now?
No: those individual player rankings don’t mean anything.
They have a bunch of wins, who cares how they won them? They got some scoring from lower lines- not a whole lot but enough to help them win. That could be more important than getting more from the top lines than other teams do.
They have three healthy goalies, two have played pretty well, no data available on the third. #playNitty
They have an increasing number of healthy defensemen, which is good to have. Also good, while those injured defensemen have been out, Braun and Demers got much-needed playing time. Their stats don’t look much improved since the start of the season but neither are they much worse.
Games in hand are really more like games in the bush. Like the power play and the as-yet-to-be-seen scoring prowess of the Sharks’ top guys, those unplayed games hold promise while promising nothing. They can go either way. They are different from the birds in the bush in that they will be caught. Whether they are plump tasty wins or tough buzzards circling overhead, we don’t know yet.
What we do know is that right now they have a better win percentage than a bunch of teams above them in all those standings. That’s worth a trip to the All Star Game for Todd McLellan. I think that’s the only prize they give out for mid-season success, so it’s a good thing to win.
According to Darrin Stephens (@SharkStats), Patrick Marleau likes to score against the Thrasher-Jets. He has done so in 9 of 13 games against them. Tonight would be a good time to add to that tally. Others chipping in would be good too. The Jets only lead the Sharks in special teams’ success. With the Sharks’ penalty kill improving of late, Winnipeg would be a good place to try putting the pedal down.
The Sharks do need to ratchet it up. While the Pacific Division is doing worse than it has done in a while, even the Ducks seem ready to make some progress. They have three games coming up against teams they might be able to beat. They already beat Dallas. The Ducks are not likely to catch the Sharks in the standings but I have to wonder how many other teams are about to make a push in a way that requires more than doing okay?
A lot of teams would consider being in the Sharks’ position better than okay. They earned points in nine of their last ten games, won eight of the last twelve. It makes me greedy to see what they could do if they did start firing on all cylinders.
More importantly, the Sharks need to see what would happen. That very nice recent record looks less exciting when compared to the LA Kings, who are in a position to push the Sharks in the standings. They also have points in nine of their last ten, and won seven of their last twelve. They have played 4 more games than the Sharks but are only two points behind. Some distance there would be good.
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About Petshark: Talking Stick
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle. I watch, I react, I write it down.
My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at email@example.com