by PuckStopsHere on 11/10/08 at 02:10 PM ET
Yesterday, I decided that I would write something today about how the San Jose Sharks have been the best team in the NHL so far this season. They made me second guess that decision when they lost 4-2 to the Phoenix Coyotes last night. However, a second look at the standings after the loss only helped to show how well San Jose had been playing. Even with the loss, San Jose sits first in the league with 26 points. San Jose has the best “winning percentage” of .813 (in their case it is a true winning percentage as they have no regulation ties that became losses). San Jose has the best team +/- as they score 0.87 more goals per game than they allow (Montreal is second at 0.75).
Last year, San Jose was a good team that finished second in the league. They were good enough to have expected a playoff run and fire coach Ron Wilson when it didn’t happen. They are doing even better this year. It is a reasonable question to ask what has improved.
Last season, Joe Thornton was the only forward who scored 60 or more points. This season they have better depth. Patrick Marleau has bounced back from a poor 2007/08 and leads the team with 16 points. Ryane Clowe and Devin Setogucki have emerged as legitimate scorers as well. Also, Joe Thornton remains among the team’s top scorers.
On defence, they added Dan Boyle in a trade with Tampa Bay and he is playing very well. Christian Ehrhoff has broken out with 12 points already. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has become an underrated number one defenceman and newcomer Rob Blake is also playing very well.
The Sharks have added a lot of depth with breakouts of young players and additions. When a team is playing well, this is usually the way things look. Everyone is doing very well and many are exceeding expectation. It will be interesting to see how they respond to a period of adversity.
The adversity may come because of goaltending. Evgeni Nabokov, the San Jose number one goalie is out with an undisclosed injury and it is not clear that backup Brian Boucher is an adequate replacement over any long period of time.
San Jose has played very well so far and is clearly a Stanley Cup contender. Of course it’s a long way to go before playoff time. A lot can change in the meantime, but so far the Sharks have been the best team in the NHL this season.
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