Programming note: Sharks-Bruins coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
Through six games, the Sharks are 4-1-1.
With nine points, they are tied for second place in the Pacific Division with the Kings, one point behind the Ducks.
Here are 10 random thoughts on the Sharks, compiled on a flight from JFK to SFO:
1) It’s true the Sharks are a younger team now with guys like Mirco Mueller, Chris Tierney, Tye McGinn and Barclay Goodrow making the final cuts after camp. But, you have to wonder how the opening night roster would have looked had guys like James Sheppard, Tyler Kennedy and Raffi Torres wouldn’t have gotten hurt. McGinn was acquired after it was learned Torres would be out again, but I’m not sure Tierney and Goodrow would have pushed any veterans out with a completely healthy team. Put another way, Doug Wilson got the younger team he had been saying he would get since the offseason, but you have to wonder how much chance played a role.
2) He hasn’t lost a whole lot in his NHL career, but Alex Stalock takes them pretty hard. One of the more chatty Sharks off the ice, he’s legitimately short with the media in his postgame scrums after losing (that’s not a complaint, just an observation). That’s probably a good sign, and he never had any prolonged slumps last year, so it doesn’t seem like he carries anything from game-to-game. But, this is a new season in which he knows he is supposed to take more responsibility. His next start will be an important one to see how he bounces back from what was probably his worst game in the NHL.
3) There hasn’t been a single player more noticeable from shift to shift than Brent Burns, and it sure seems like no one on the ice has their stick on the puck more than Burns through the first six games other than maybe Joe Thornton. He’s obviously done some good things so far with seven points, but he’s also gotten caught out of position several times, has had some nervous moments while defending in open ice, and is just so unpredictable out there. I know his transition back to D is a work in progress, and I noticed Burns having a long chat with Jim Johnson at the pregame skate in New Jersey, but the Sharks seem like a much more dangerous team with him at forward. Maybe they give it another couple weeks, but I bet the Sharks end up putting the “wrecking ball” back where he belongs – up front on Thornton’s right side.
4) McLellan was non-committal the other day when asked about Mueller staying with the Sharks for the season, or going back to his junior club. I still think the 19-year-old is here to stay, but he’s going to have to play better in the next couple of games – assuming he plays – or the Sharks could have a decision to make. With all of this talk about becoming a younger team, though, I still don’t think Mueller returns to the WHL.
5) There's nowhere like Madison Square Garden. It’s simply the best building in the United States to watch a hockey game, and the renovations are spectacular. I’ve always thought the Rangers did everything right in terms of their game presentation – no ice girls, no obnoxious in-arena host trying to sell you cheap merchandise on the jumbotron, a great selection of music in warmups and throughout. The focus is on the game, and the game alone. Just awesome.
6) As much as the Sharks weren’t overly joyful with their performances against Washington and the Islanders, I was really impressed with both of those opponents. The Capitals have a great coach behind the bench after the Adam Oates debacle, and their blue line is stronger with a few offseason additions. The Islanders are just fun to watch, compete hard, and could be ready to take the kind of step that Dallas did last season. I don’t think the Devils or Flyers are all that good so I’m putting the Capitals and the Islanders in the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division along with the Penguins and Rangers.
7) I don’t think Todd McLellan is on the hot seat as much as some others do, but I do know one thing after talking to various people on this road trip – he’s absolutely one of the most respected head coaches in the game. If anything ever happened in San Jose and the Sharks made a switch, McLellan would have another job almost overnight, or could wait until next summer and have his pick of where to go next.
8) Lots of people hemmed and hawed when the Sharks went out and re-signed Scott Hannan to another one-year deal, since the 35-year-old’s best days are behind him, but it sure looks like a good move now with guys like Mueller, Matt Irwin and Jason Demers still searching for their consistency. Hannan is still a steady blueliner that knows the Sharks’ defensive system, and the Sharks’ only two losses have come with him in the press box. Maybe that's a coincidence, maybe not.
9) Funny rookie moment for Goodrow the other day. He popped out of the visiting locker room in Washington, looked around, and asked, “Where’s the ice?” I happened to be the only one around, so I pointed him in the right direction. You have to feel for this kid – he’s probably not all that close to returning since he’s not even practicing with the team yet, and he’s going to be watching games from the press box in some of the best hockey markets in the U.S. in New York and Boston when he could have been out there competing.
10) Logan Couture hasn’t been taking as many faceoffs lately. In the last three games, Couture has taken just 23 draws, while linemate Patrick Marleau has 26. Compare that with the first three games, when Couture took 43 draws to just eight for Marleau. Considering Couture has already taken a pair of “maintenance days” since training camp began, it’s fair to wonder if he’s still dealing with some affects of his offseason hand surgery. Or, perhaps it’s just a matter of effectiveness – Couture’s faceoff percentage this season is just 40.9, compared with Marleau’s 52.9 percent.