VANCOUVER -- The Sharks have been here before.
Last season, the team busted out of the gate with a 7-0-0 start, the first five of which came in dominant fashion by a combined score of 23-8. Through the first three games of the 2013-14 campaign, the Sharks have an even more impressive 17-4 edge on the scoreboard.
But, there are distinct differences. In the shortened 2013 season, in which there was just a week-long training camp and no preseason games, the Sharks took advantage of their familiarity with one another and their head coach. A red-hot power play was at the forefront, while Patrick Marleau tied a NHL mark with four straight multiple-goal games to open a season.
The Sharks have shown to have a much more balanced attack in the early going this year, even with rookie Tomas Hertl’s NHL-leading six goals. There are already 13 players with at least two points, and the Sharks have scored 11 goals at even-strength -- a weakness throughout last season.
“I think last year it was the power play carrying the team, and now we’ve just got a balanced attack,” Joe Thornton said. “Our five-on-five play has been really good.”
Through the first seven games last year, a top-heavy offense that included Marleau, Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture pumped in 21 of the team’s 27 goals. Now, the Sharks already have nine players with at least one goal through their first three games.
Pavelski said: "Four lines are really playing well for us right now. It's just a different year in general, with a training camp coming in. It just feels a little smoother, a little calmer in that way. It wasn't such a rat race at the start."
There isn’t much not to like about San Jose’s start. After an 0-for-8 performance on the power play in their first game against Vancouver, the Sharks are 4-for-7 in the last two games. They’ve allowed two power play goals, but both of them came in the first period, and the Sharks were able to easily overcome both deficits.
What the Sharks would like to avoid this time around is a rapid decline. After those first seven wins to start the year in 2013, it took the Sharks nearly two months to double that total as the offense went stone cold.
Todd McLellan will remind his team of that downward spiral before Thursday’s Canucks game, when the Sharks try for a ninth straight regular season/playoff win over their now Pacific Division rival.
“We have been in this situation as early as last year when we got off to a pretty good start. We got comfortable and we let things slip, and we didn’t play the way we needed to play. That will be a gentle reminder for the group tonight before the game,” McLellan said.
“We found a formula that worked for three nights, I don’t know why we’d get away from it. But, it’s a group of individuals that like any other team can have good or bad nights. It will be our job to snap them into place if they get away from it.”