Wednesday, October 12, 2011

San Jose Sharks: What We Learned in First Game of the Season

I don't mean to play off of the unoriginal use of "What did we learn today," which is so overplayed, but there is something to say about seeing the Sharks for the first time this season on TV, in the starting lines and in front of fired up fans.

We had not seen that, for the most part. The first game of the season showcased what the Sharks bring to the table this season, and there was no debating it—this team is good.

How much can we really find out about a team after one game?

Close to nothing, but it was different in San Jose on Saturday night.

We saw Brent Burns and Michal Handzus. Even seeing Thornton and Marleau again in actual competition was exhilarating.

Still, there were weaknesses shown against Phoenix. But for how many soft spots we found, we saw equal bright spots in the route of the Coyotes.

Joe Pavelski is Going to Like His New Role

Take one look at the game against Phoenix and you can tell that this first line is as in sync as any line in the NHL.

Chemistry is a great way to put it.

The player benefiting the most from the chemistry of Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski is Pavelski.

Two goals by "Little Joe" made that clear, and it showed that he could have quite a field day with Thornton and Marleau feeding him the puck and drawing the defenses all day.

Pavelski will get his allotted amount of shots, but he is set up to have quite a season in the statistics department.

The Defense is as Good as Advertised

It is one thing to see the Sharks impressive defense on paper, but it is another thing to actually see these players perform on the ice.

It was worth the wait on Saturday night.

It is obvious that this team will go as far as the defense takes them, and against the Coyotes it looked like it may take them to the elite of the NHL.

Not only does the blue line play tremendous lock-down defense, but it fuels the offense more than anything.

The Sharks looked incredibly quick on Saturday thanks to this defense.

Players like Boyle, Burns and Vlasic were able to stop the Coyotes' attack and push the puck ahead to forwards that can do something with it. I am talking about Marleau, Thornton and others. It set-up players like Pavelski for several scoring opportunities during the game.

The result was the Sharks putting up way, way more shots than the Coyotes, and clear difference of talent of both sides of the puck.

Michal Handzus is Key to Special Teams' Success

If we want to be picky, then newly acquired Michal Handzus played the worst of the bunch on Saturday, and it showed a lot about how this team functions when he is not at his best.

The Sharks rely on Handzus in the face-off circle, penalty kill and power play. With so many jobs, it is up to him to perform on the ice because he plays such a huge role on this team.

Despite Handzus' goal, he was on the ice for two Phoenix goals. This coming from a player whose best asset is on the special teams and defensive side of the puck these days.

He understands what his role on this team is, but he must perform up to par for the Sharks to do any damage in the Western Conference come playoff time.

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