Why this year's hot start isn't like last year's

Discussion in 'San Jose Sharks' started by Juxtaposer, Oct 11, 2013.

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  1. Juxtaposer

    Juxtaposer Outro: Divina Comedia

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    I've seen a lot of posts from both Sharks fans and fans of other teams writing off our good start by comparing it to our 7-0 start last year and talking about how we would go on to lose the next 7 in a row. I figured it'd be good to debunk the idea that this hot start is like last year's.

    Last year we started the year with the PP shooting the lights out, but the Sharks getting their teeth kicked in at even strength. Below is a graph of the Sharks' Fenwick Close last season, which is the best indicator of future performance (and almost always shows which team dictated the play at even strength at any given game):

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, over the first couple of weeks, coincidentally the first 7 or so games, the Sharks were quite outplayed at even strength. Honestly, I was predicting that they'd fall back to earth and fast.

    There were several warning signs, the poor 5v5 possession numbers just one of them.

    In the first 7 games of last season, the Sharks scored 27 goals (not counting shootouts, of course, but counting EN because I'm too lazy to sort though out). Of those 27 goals, 12 of them were on the PP. Even more alarming is that of the 27 goals, either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau or both scored a point on 18 of them, a ridiculous 67% of them.

    Comparatively, through the first 4 games of this season, the Sharks have scored 21 goals. 1 of them was short-handed and 2 were empty nets. That's 14 goals at even strength and 4 on the powerplay by my count. So 5-on-5 scoring is insanely improved, and 5v5 scoring is much more sustainable over the long-run than PP scoring. Of course, the Sharks' team on-ice shooting percentage will fall back to earth, but they are still leading the league in offensive stats that aren't goals (shots and shot attempts).

    The other good thing is that on the 21 goals, Thornton and/or Marleau only have points on 6 of them. That means that the team has scored 15 goals in 4 games that have nothing to do with our two offensive leaders. And if you look at the stat sheet, everyone is getting in on the action. This kind of depth is not something we had last year, when IIRC Michal Handzus lead forwards in even strength ice time for the first couple weeks. This year, there is scoring from all 4 lines and even all 3 defensive pairs.

    Plus, while the Sharks' on-ice shooting percentage is 11.3%, too unsustainably high to last the whole season, it's not as high as it was at the beginning of last season, and we're scoring twice as much at even strength regardless.

    The Sharks lead the league in 5v5 Corsi, 5v5 Fenwick, 5v5 Shots-For percentage, 5v5 Close Corsi, 5v5 Shots-For percentage (in a landslide), and are second in 5v5 Fenwick Close. The Sharks also lead the league in shot attempts for per 60 by far.

    They have a top-9 that is dangerous on every single line. They have a 4th line anchored by Sheppard and Desjardins that is actually capable of popping a couple of goals and keeping the puck out of their own net. We have a top-pair of defensemen who are capable of shutting down any line in the league. We have a Vezina-caliber goaltender who looks to be continuing where he left off last spring. And despite the success, we're missing Marty Havlat and Raffi Torres, two top-6 caliber forwards, and playing two young rookies in important scoring roles.

    Am I saying that we're gonna continue to dominate the whole season? Of course not. Am I even saying that we're going to continue to be first in all these possession categories? Far from it. Too small a sample size to conclude anything for certain.

    What I am saying is that this year's start is insanely different from last year's in that last year's hot start was a total mirage, with luck and PP success covering up some important underlying issues that needed to be addressed and weren't until luck dried up and the warts were exposed, whereas this year's start has the Sharks dominating in every facet of play and putting up the underlying numbers to support the win-loss record.

    Be cautiously optimistic. This team has the potential to be really exciting.
     
  2. slocal

    slocal Stuffed.

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    Hold on, let me get my old TI-83 :D

    All I know is, our pucks go in on 5v5. That's what's important to me. Can't depend on the whistle.
     
  3. do0glas

    do0glas Registered User

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    Lots of info to repeat Curtis brown on post game.

    :sarcasm:
     
  4. magic school bus

    magic school bus ***********

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    Even beyond the stats, you can take one look at our lineup and see we're deeper and faster than we've ever been.
     
  5. KirbyDots

    KirbyDots Registered User

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    TI-83plus for the win! :D
     
  6. slocal

    slocal Stuffed.

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    Wanna play tanks? I will destroy you like Hertl does when he splits the D with a blueline pass from Jumbo or Squatch.
     
  7. Juxtaposer

    Juxtaposer Outro: Divina Comedia

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    Bro, the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition is where it's at. Although I've been wanting one of them fancy TI-89's that can integrate **** for me for the longest time... Christmas is soon, right?

    Anyway, for those statistically inclined, here's where I got the possession stats from: http://www.extraskater.com/teams/2013/5v5close
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  8. nerdybeard

    nerdybeard Registered User

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    Nice info in your post. I also agree that this start is a whole different world from last years.

    1) "Depth" - Last year we ran 12-19-8 top line... Now we run each of them on a different top 9 line. That line became too predictable 5on5 (as discussed) and relied heavily on the PP.
    -We now have 3 legitimate puck possession/scoring lines.
    -Our line 3 will tear apart most matchups
    -48-19-88 has no weak matchups I have seen yet..

    2) "Slowbies" - Hey remember how we still had Murray/Zeus/Clowe? We were trying to adapt a newer system and they weren't keeping up, thus the whole team didn't fully buy in. Too must east west and not enough north south back then, as Drew said almost every game.
    -now we play a faster paced N/S game and high tempo forecheck/puck possession

    3) "Confidence" - Yea, we lost to LA, but it was a hell of a series. Van was a huge boost and we just couldn't cash in against LA. But now this team looks like it's really melding and enjoying the play. (as cheesy as that sounds.) More smiles, more trust with rolling all lines, and just funner to watch.

    *If/when Havlat returns, he WILL fit in very well with this playstyle. I can see him 12-39-9 or 81-8-9.

    *Torres won't be relied on for point production. Not that he can't provide it, but he is a much better role player and can fill a 4th line role or step up to 3rd line when needed.

    *Hertl seems decent enough....

    Overall I am excited for this year. I remember the first game we lost last year to Chicago pretty vividly (that triggered the losing streak). I am very confident we will beat them this year - the matchups are just so far in our favor on paper.

    I'm ready for this season =)

    EDIT: possible negatives to think about:
    -Hertl's fatigue. Will he play in the Olympics? Can his body take the season+ that and carry anything into the playoffs? Will the coaches adjust this?
    -13 and 9's return and chemistry... and Burish. Oh, Burish - how I honestly don't miss you at all, but the upper management will put you in on the 4th line. Hoping that going into the playoffs we see a torres/desi/burish line (maybe mix in shep)
    -STALOCK. Niemi is a workhorse as we know, but I really hope we see some playtime for Stalock.
    -Hannan/Boyle/Stuart fatigue. These guys need rotation. Boyle will need to see lowered minutes here and there, and Stuart/Hannan will need to sit out sometimes to keep enery. They look great right now... but that won't last.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  9. Juxtaposer

    Juxtaposer Outro: Divina Comedia

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    Great post, nerdybeard. I agree with you on several counts.

    - Hertl will absolutely start to feel fatigued. There will be a ten game stretch where he scores 2 points and everyone wonders what's wrong. It will be a combination of bad luck, poor confidence, and fatigue. He will get over it eventually.

    - It's nice that we've been blowing teams out early so far so nobody is playing an inordinate amount of minutes, but I worry that TMac will fall into old habits and start to overplay Boyle when the going gets tough. Boyle needs rest. Braun has to be the heavy-lifer on the right side, and I think he's perfectly capable of it.

    - Torres should definitely be counted upon for point production. Statistically, he's been one of the better 5v5 scorers in the NHL over the past couple of years. Strictly speaking, his 5v5 production is at a top-6 level. He doesn't belong on the 4th line. He belongs with a top-6 center (any one of Couture/Pavelski/Thornton).

    - The defense has to continue to be aggressive. Vlasic in particular has been nearly flawless so far this season even in the offensive zone because he's made smart pinches, and is starting to keep his head up and make good stretch passes, etc. The rest of the defense needs to continue to follow that lead. Even when the scoring dries up, they need to continue to do that and fight the impulse to play more conservatively to mitigate the lack of scoring. Dry spells will pass, bad habits won't if you let them take root.

    - Related: God help Demers. After three solid games, Hannan was horrendous last night. Demers has been fantastic so far; confident, using his skating and puck-handling to get out of pressure situations, using his body to fight for the puck. He needs to keep it up if we're going to do this "defense by committee" thing that has become a necessity due to Boyle's decline.

    - I'm glad the coaching staff likes Irwin so much, because while he's probably the d-man on this team most prone to gaffs, he's a tremendous offensive weapon and we need him in the line-up if we're going to continue to play at this high-speed pace. Yes, I realize Irwin is a weak skater, but I'm going to apply an altered version of what soccer, softball, and basketball coaches yelled at me throughout my childhood: the ball (puck) travels faster than the player. Fast skaters and controlled zone entries are spectacular and necessary, but if a guy can make good passes then he can contribute to that kind of style, like Irwin.

    - Stalock wasn't great during the pre-season. Which worries me, because Greiss was a good goaltender and even he got precious few starts. Plus, the way Rinne's playing, I bet Niemi goes to Sochi, even if he doesn't play.

    - And lastly, I so wish we could get rid of Burish. Desjardins and Sheppard play a completely different game when they don't have to lug around Burish all the time. Even with guys like Pelech or McCarthy on their wing, they play so much better. I still hold out hope for my dream 4th line of Desjardins-Sheppard-Wingels, which I think would actually be a fairly competent scoring 4th line.

    Still questions to be answered, but I'm particularly encouraged by this dominant road win. I will be watching the Sharks' road games closely. Road games were a big weakness last season, and as it's said, the best teams win on the road.
     
  10. nerdybeard

    nerdybeard Registered User

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    I do agree with this, I just think that if he drops out and we say "oh no we are screwed", that just shows a lack of scoring depth. (Like in the LA series).

    Now, I'd feel comfortable with him in the top 9, just don't think he has to be every game (which I think is a good thing). He won't have as much pressure to produce.
    48-19-88
    12-39-9
    13-8-81
    10-57-37 (just being realistic with Burish in.. not that I want it =P)

    I think that's what we will see pending any drastic changes, and I am all for that. That 3rd line will scrape most matchups in the league. Swapping havlat and kennedy is an option as well. I don't like to speculate lines too much, but we have 2 top 6/9 players not in the lineup so I think it's ok to try and get an idea of how our team will line up later in the season.
     
  11. Juxtaposer

    Juxtaposer Outro: Divina Comedia

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    Torres should feel pressure to produce at a reasonable rate. He's a scorer, not a 4th line grinder. And saying that I think Torres is an important part of our team does not mean I'm saying we can't succeed without him. I mean, we've done pretty okay in the last couple of games without either of Torres or Havlat, who are two of our better 5v5 scorers. But that doesn't mean I don't want them back.

    And it's a real shame that the coaches will surely ice Burish as soon as he's healthy. One of the many reasons Chicago was so dominant as because they didn't waste any roster spots. They had a fourth line with Kruger and Frolik on it, both of whom are very good hockey players. Pushing Wingels down to the 4th line and icing him with Sheppard and Desjardins, also competent NHLers, would go a long way towards fixing the perpetual issue of secondary scoring in the playoffs. Chicago won despite the fact that Toews barely produced at all until the Finals. Every year people blame Thornton and Marleau when really we don't lose because of their failings, but rather because their support players can't contribute enough on top of JT/PM's scoring to get wins. Recall 08-09 when the whole 2nd line went completely MIA (Michalek, Pavelski, and Clowe) and yet Marleau and Thornton were blamed, even though Thornton had 5 points in 6 games and Marleau had both of the 2 game winners in that series.
     
  12. Mafoofoo

    Mafoofoo Jawesome

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    TI-89's are literally the fastest way to fail out of an engineering 400 level course. :laugh:
     
  13. Soizit Blindy

    Soizit Blindy Registered User

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    I agree, just by looking at highlights (I'm from Germany and most Sharks game are played at 4 am our time) it looks better. The 5on5 dramatically improved. I like how they play so far and it does not seem that road play is making them nervous.
    I think that Stalock can pull it together for the few games he will get, I was sad to hear, that Greiss leaves, but I guess he'll get a few more games in Pheonix. Greiss would have also been a Plus as a Sharks as he would not have played Olympics, as Germany didn't make the tourney, and might have been able to hold out for Nemo the games after.
    What do you guys think about Marleau Couture Kennedy? Worth keeping? Pairing Pavs with Havlat in a 3rd Line role would be a dangerous combo? When you add Torres to the mix - once he gets back - Torres - Pavelski - Havlat seems a good 3rd line to me.
    What are you expectations for the season? I personally would like them to make the playoffs a bit earlier :D
     
  14. Arrch

    Arrch Registered User

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    The plus-minus doesn't lie:

    [​IMG]
     
  15. JoeThorntonsRooster

    JoeThorntonsRooster There is no anti-Leafs bias on HFBoards

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    Good thread Jux but we all already know this

    Just ignore the people in the main boards

    I was gonna make this thread in the main boards after ten games, but right now it's four games, still not enough time

    I think any Sharks fan who isn't just being a pessimist for the sake of being a pessimist can understand this is the best team we have ever iced.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  16. Fistfullofbeer

    Fistfullofbeer 65 + 88 Sponsor

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    - The team in general has looked more confident and outplayed other teams. Their PP has been average at best but I would rather have a good 5v5 and PK like they have had anyway.

    - The defensemen have been more active in the offensive zone as well.

    - We already have had goals (yes multiple) from our bottom 6. How long did that take last year despite the fast start to the season.

    - Hertl has been a delight. I am excited about the kid.

    All that being said, it has been only 4 games. We will have a better idea 25-30 games into the season. But if they keep playing the entertaining style of hockey they have been playing they should be fine.
     
  17. JoeThorntonsRooster

    JoeThorntonsRooster There is no anti-Leafs bias on HFBoards

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    Jux's post might be too difficult for some people to understand on the main board, so I'll try to dumb it down a bit. I wasn't actually looking at the advanced stats, just looking at this

    We've been missing our 7th and 9th best forwards, and our 5th-6th best defenseman is suspended. These wins are more dominant than those of last year.

    Niemi just looks solid but he was also good last year

    I already said to wait and see for Pavelski to play a full season on the third line, so far he looks good, he is playing with a grinder and a rookie and that line is dominating teams, our fourth line is also dominant.

    The ES production is dominant, we are goings to dominate this year, I am fully confident in this team. Remember how good we were last year in the playoffs? We dominated the Kings in 6 of 7 games, but yet, we lost, because of Jonathan Quick, and because we had no depth, or Hertl, or defensive ES activation that we do this year.

    It seems that DW copied the Hawks this year, but you know what? He copied them right, and it's gonna work for us. The defense has been playing offensively more than they did last year, it seems they've been encouraged to be more aggressive. The offense is the deepest in the NHL this year when healthy, Hawks were deepest last year. It's still possible DW picks up a rental F2 at the deadline also if we've got injury issues.

    The team is ****ing good. Everything tangible backs up that premise.
     
  18. hockeyball

    hockeyball Registered User

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    Wolfram Alpha :P
     
  19. The Ice Hockey Dude

    The Ice Hockey Dude Ack! Thbbft!

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    Nice work Juxt!

    I'm also optimistic that this will be a better season. I'm liking;
    - 5 on 5 puck possession time and scoring,
    - special teams
    - team D is strong as it goal tending
    - Hertl and Nieto are doing well.

    I think we can get better when Havlat and Torres return.

    I'll be interested to see if other teams can "adjust" to our "refreshed" 5 on 5 systems as the season goes on.
     
  20. Juxtaposer

    Juxtaposer Outro: Divina Comedia

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    Oh I believe it. But the prospect of lessening the amount of integrals I have to deal with is tempting.

    Can you play games on Wolfram Alpha? Didn't think so. :sarcasm:
     
  21. sr228

    sr228 Registered User

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    While I agree this start is a 180 compared to last seasons start and there is a lot to be excited about, it's been 4 games and they are riding some pretty unsustainable 5v5 numbers (as you mentioned). I think the 2 upcoming road trips will be a good test for the Sharks.

    But I wanted to respond to a couple of things.
    1. Boyle's role has changed, it's pretty clear to me how the coaches view him. He will be on the ice a lot late if the Sharks need a goal and a secondary (or even third) option late if they're protecting a lead. That's how he should be used.

    2. Demers was not very good in the d-zone last night. I love that everyone wants to blame Stuart or Hannan (or Murray or Wallin) when that pairing sucks but there really was a good reason why Demers has not been able to solify his spot in the lineup. He is fantastic skating with the puck as well as moving it and for that reason he should remain in the lineup but he made his fair share of bad decisions and defensive mistakes last night (and yes, Hannan was not very good either).

    3. The Sheppard/Desi/Burish line was actually pretty effective down the stretch and into the playoffs last year and if Burish ever gets healthy he deserves the opportunity to prove to the org that he can be the player he was for Dallas. It seems a bit silly to me that suddenly that line is better with Pelech and the 4th line hasn't been a whole lot better w/ puck possession (Corsi, it's too early to draw anything from Fenwick) then they were down the stretch last season. His injury is proving to the coaches that they have options for the 4th line so if Burish sucks the coaches will do something about it.

    As for my concerns about this team after four whole games - while Joe Pavelski has been outstanding the third line has been dominated on the ice (puck possession) more often then not. I noticed Nieto in a bad way again last night, while his offensive zone play is very good his positioning and decision making in the d-zone are still lacking. The Sharks keep a lot of on ice stats so they're likely very aware of this.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  22. SJSharksfan39

    SJSharksfan39 Registered User

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    The sharks are faster, and they have more depth, but most of their games have been at home so far, with another home game coming up against the Senators. This is why I'm really looking forward to the two games next week against St. Louis and Dallas. It feels like the Blues and Sharks will meet and chances are good that both will be undefeated and the Sharks have struggled a lot against the Blues in the last few seasons. Also, it's simply a week long road trip, and I think it will answer the question of will the Sharks sustain this start or not. Should be a fun week coming up.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  23. do0glas

    do0glas Registered User

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    I question whether havlat can play the way the sharks are trying to play now. id need to see where his speed is at. even jumbo doesnt slow up the play. so it will be interesting.
     
  24. sharski

    sharski Registered User

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    i don't feel confident saying this team truly has taken the next step and gone from playoff team to elite team until we show we can take down the dominant teams from last year... as in St. Louis & Chicago
     
  25. Gilligans Island

    Gilligans Island Registered User Sponsor

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    Great post, TJ. It is different this year so far.

    But this is where I'm at. Cautiously optimistic. Let's see how we do on the road against the Blues, Hawks and Kings.

    I'm hopeful though.
     

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