The Sharks will have a few days of valuable practice time this week before their home game against Vancouver on Thursday.
Here are 10 more random thoughts and observations…
1) It’s a bit surprising that Tommy Wingels is tied for the Sharks team lead in shots with Joe Pavelski (47), but that, along with his nine points (5g, 4a) is evidence that the 26-year-old just keeps getting better and better. He’s seemingly established himself as a full-time power play guy, too, scoring two goals and setting up Tomas Hertl’s marker on Saturday. Hockey experts on the other side of the country are noticing, too.
2) Speaking of shots, center Joe Thornton has already accumulated 26 through the first 13 games, for an even 2.0 per game. That’s up from 16 shots through 13 games in 2013-14, and more than the 1.49 he averaged last season (122 shots in 82 games). It seems like Thornton is quicker to move the puck both at even strength and on the power play, which may result in him getting more good looks at the net.
3) While we’re on Thornton, one question I’ve gotten a few times is, why has he not been seen or heard from after games? The reason is quite simple – as captain, Thornton was always the first to speak to the media. It's an assumed obligation across the league. Now that he isn’t wearing the C, he isn't going to come out unless the media requests him. It’s nothing more than that. That being said, Pavelski seems to be routinely making himself available, even on some nights where he wasn’t requested (like after the brutal loss to Buffalo, for example). Read into that what you will.
4) Maybe I’m getting old, but the pregame music these days for NHL games – in just about every arena – is downright horrible. It probably appeals so some of the younger fans, but I can’t imagine the majority of people like this techno/EDM stuff. Here’s a thought: maybe instead of letting the players pick their warmup music, it’s time to go back to the kind of music a majority of paying fans would actually would like to hear.
5) You have to tip your cap to Antti Niemi. There had to be some uncertainty for the 31-year-old coming into this season, because if he lost his starting job here, there wouldn’t be any guarantees he’d ever get it back at this stage of his career. But, Niemi has been stellar the past week, particularly in that Anaheim game, and right now it’s pretty evident he’s become the number one guy for at least the immediate future.
6) Mikhail Grabovski is lucky he only missed three games after John Scott absolutely ran him over on Long Island on Oct. 16. I spoke with him about the hit on Saturday morning, and it was apparent he didn’t like it. “I play hockey because I love the game, and not trying to kill anyone on the ice,” he said. Scott was a healthy scratch for the game, but Grabovski said: “There’s players like that who need to be ready for somebody to hit them the same way.”
7) Speaking of big hits, remember Brad Stuart creaming Gabriel Landeskog in a Sharks-Colorado game on Jan. 26, 2013? The Avalanche captain missed 11 games with a concussion, and now they’re teammates, after Stuart was traded in the offseason. “Guys joked about it a little bit,” Stuart said last week. “It’s the game of hockey, it happens. We’ve all been in situations like there where you’ve fought somebody and they end up on your team or whatever it is. For the most part, it’s a good group of guys in this league and you get over those things fairly quickly.”
8) Chris Tierney looks like he’ll be an NHL player for a long time, but I have to wonder if the Sharks are thinking about making a switch there. Tierney is eligible to go to AHL Worcester, and he’s a headstrong enough kid that I don’t see it adversely affecting his confidence in the long run. I’ve never been overly impressed with Freddie Hamilton, but the 21-year-old is leading Worcester in scoring again with five goals and nine points. Maybe he should get another shot, since the Sharks’ bottom six continues to be a concern.
9) Speaking of the bottom six, it’s difficult to fathom why the Sharks didn’t go out and add depth at forward over the summer. Of course, that may be a hint that management still plans on making a major change or two this season, depending on the way things progress. Talk of a big time trade has naturally died down now that there are games to analyze, but there’s still a very good chance that big changes could be on the horizon.
10) Here are the youngest Sharks defensemen to ever score a goal: Vlastimil Kroupa (18 years and 166 days), Mirco Mueller (19 years and 223 days), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (19 years, 237 days). Hopefully, Mueller’s career progresses more like his teammate Vlasic’s than Kroupa’s, who was a Sharks second round pick in 1993, and spent his North American career bouncing between the NHL and the minors before returning to the Europe full-time in 1999-00.