With Detroit heading to the Eastern Conference, do the Blues take their spot as number one Western Conference rival outside of the division? (Justin Hatfield)
After what happened with Dan Boyle, the Blues are probably as good a choice as any. St. Louis looks like a team that’s ready to win now, and its only regulation loss has come to San Jose (they're 5-1-1). Maxim Lapierre’s light five-game suspension will be over well before San Jose meets the Blues again on Nov. 29 at SAP Center, so that’s one to mark on the calendar. Furthermore, the Sharks have struggled with the Blues in the past. Prior to that 6-2 win last Tuesday, San Jose had lost six of its last seven regular season games to the Blues, not including that five-game ouster in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
But, the Blues haven’t won anything yet, unlike the Blackhawks, and San Jose visits Chicago on Nov. 17. The Blackhawks won all three games of the season series last year in regulation, but all three came before the Sharks’ significant second half upgrades. The way the Sharks are playing right now, I can’t think of any NHL matchup that will be more fun to watch than when those two teams battle.
What are the odds of Alex Stalock seeing any time in net with the Sharks playing as well as they are? (Josh Romano)
Rest assured, Stalock will make at least one start on this current road trip. In fact, I thought we’d see him against Dallas or Calgary, but Todd McLellan decided to stick with Antti Niemi. That could be because games against Western Conference opponents are more important in the standings, and it’s difficult to argue that logic.
Stalock has yet to start an NHL game in his career, and getting him in on the road could be reduced pressure for the 26-year-old. San Jose has its first back-to-back situation next weekend in Montreal and Ottawa, so if he doesn’t play in Detroit or Boston, Stalock will almost certainly play in one of those two games.
Could Tomas Hertl score 40 goals this year and lead the team in that category, or can we expect him to cool significantly? (Ben Shields)
Even if he plays all season on the Joe Thornton-Brent Burns line, 40 goals seems like a stretch. Hertl has never played this kind of schedule in the Czech League, getting in 43 games last season and 38 in 2011-12 (although he did play in the World Juniors the last two seasons, and the World Championships last year). Patrick Marleau has already tied him for the team lead (and league lead) in goals with seven, and Logan Couture and Brent Burns (four goals each) will be in the running, too.
Hertl has already cooled off a bit in terms of putting the puck in the net, but I think he can make a push for a 30-goal season if he stays healthy. That should keep him among the favorites for the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, something the Sharks haven’t had since Evgeni Nabokov in 2001.
I'm curious, who's most likely to get the call up from Worcester, in the event of more suspensions or injuries? (Megan Charrin)
On defense, Matt Tennyson and Taylor Doherty are the top two options. Tennyson is more of a puck mover who can generate offense, while the scouting report on the towering Doherty is that he doesn’t have much of a shot, but makes a strong first pass and is improving defensively.
Up front, Freddie Hamilton will probably make his debut at some point this season, but the Sharks don’t want to recall him just to play seven or eight minutes in a fourth line role. The 21-year-old is better off getting big minutes in Worcester and continuing to develop his game. Matt Pelech and Bracken Kearns can continue to rotate in on that fourth line wing with Adam Burish out for several months after back surgery.
What are your first impressions of the newcomers thus far? (Michael Kado)
The biggest strength of the Sharks so far is they’ve gotten contributions from everyone. Hertl’s performance to start the season needs no mention; Tyler Kennedy has fit in very well on a speedy line with Couture and Marleau and has been strong the past few games, and Matt Nieto has shown flashes of brilliance in the offensive end.
As I said on Sharks Pregame Live on Saturday, that’s part of the reason why I’m not sure where Marty Havlat fits, if he becomes healthy enough to play in the coming days. There isn’t anyone I’d take out at the moment in the top three lines, and the players in there now deserve to keep their places on a team that has yet to lose in regulation. Unless Havlat decides he wants to be the talented, hard-nosed player he was in Chicago, rather than the one we’ve seen since he signed that big contract with Minnesota, I’d keep him in the press box.