Programming note: Canucks-Sharks coverage starts Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE -- Here’s the list of NHL players that have more goals than Joe Pavelski’s 58 since the start of the 2013-14 season:
Alexander Ovechkin (67). Tyler Seguin (62).
Pavelski, who reached a career high of 41 goals last season, has picked up right where he’s left off in that department. His 17 goals this year leads the Sharks and is tied for sixth in the NHL, while his nine power play goals are tied for the league lead.
Any suggestions that Pavelski would regress -- and there were many, including from the advanced stats community -- have proven to be false.
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Is this the new normal for the 30-year-old Wisconsin native?
“Yeah, you hope it’s the norm,” Pavelski said on Monday. “That’s what you strive for and you hope you can surpass it. You want to keep getting better and keep learning, and finishing your chances. But, obviously it’s ultimately about helping the team win. Scoring goals is part of that, but you’ve got to do all the other things.”
For Pavelski, some of those “other things” have included becoming more of a face of the franchise after the summer leadership restructuring. Speculation will continue that Pavelski will eventually be named the next captain of the Sharks, but that’s not something that’s imminent or maybe even necessary the way the Sharks have been playing lately with a 9-2-1 mark in their last 11.
[RELATED: Pavelski still favorite to be next captain]
Still, Todd McLellan senses that Pavelski feels like he has a little bit bigger stake in the club as it tries to distance itself from the horror of last April.
“I think he does feel more responsibility as a catalyst. I don’t think it’s a dramatic change from last year at this point, but I think he senses more of a responsibility, which is what we wanted when we got into this,” said the coach. “He’s become a very strong spokesman for the group, which is a real good thing. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s part of that strong bond up top that leads.”
Pavelski is aware of the captaincy buzz, but seemed indifferent towards the chatter.
“I think everyone in this locker room has been pretty pleased with the way it’s gone so far. Guys are stepping up and adding pieces. You can tell when something doesn’t go quite right, something simple is being said,” Pavelski said.
“When something’s not going right, everybody knows. It’s just about putting it out there and getting on the same page. It’s not going to slip through the cracks.”
Another topic from the outside world has been ongoing for about a calendar year now, and that’s where Pavelski should be playing. Despite his immense success on Joe Thornton’s wing, some feel that Pavelski would be better off as the Sharks’ third line center, giving them as strong a team down the middle as any in the league.
There are no indications whatsoever that McLellan is going to make that switch any time soon. “I think the way I play him answers that question,” said the coach. "Pav right now might be our most natural scorer."
Instead, Pavelski and Thornton will understandably continue to skate on one of the most productive lines in the NHL. Thornton has shown no signs of slowing down and leads the Sharks with 31 points, 23 of which are assists.
The former captain has had a great view when it comes to watching Pavelski develop through the years into one of the NHL’s premier goal-scorers.
“He just has a knack for the back of the net,” Thornton said. “He seems to get his stick on a lot of things, a lot of tips. He works on his shot before practice and after practice, so it’s not something that just happens. You’ve got to work at your trade, and he continues to work on it every day.”
McLellan said: “For me, his attention and commitment to his craft allows him to score. … His studying of situations, his practicing of certain plays that he knows he’s going to get into at some point -- he’ll work on it.”
Shortly before hitting the 40-goal plateau late last season, Pavelski admitted that reaching that mark was meaningful. He’s currently on pace for 39 goals, but don’t think he doesn’t want to reach 40 for the second straight year.
“It always means something. As players, you want to contribute,” Pavelski said. “Having success, getting shots on net, getting chances -- that’s what keeps you in the league, makes you hungry for more.”