Heatley Happy in San Jose
The Sharks sniper is exceeding expectations in the sunshine state
Heatley is one of the game’s premier snipers so there are no surprises that he ranks fifth in the NHL in goal scoring. He is amazingly consistent at finding the back of the net and during the last four NHL campaigns Heatley has averaged 45 goals a year. This year he is tracking for 46 and 50 would not be a stretch as he’s already done it twice in his career.
A lot of expectations come on the ice when someone of Heatley’s caliber joins a new team, but the big winger has met those head on.
“Offensively, he’s met expectations,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Heater will always be evaluated (from the outside) on how often he lights the lamp.”
The picture perfect snippet of Heatley is of him launching his canon of a shot from near the faceoff circle and watching it sail by the netminder. The reality is that Heatley may be even better in close quarters when the puck is a few feet from the net. The Alberta native is 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and when he parks on top of the crease, no one can push him around.
Heatley’s hands not only produce powerful blasts, but they can locate a loose puck quickly and move the vulcanized rubber across the line.
“I was more under the impression he scored a lot of one-timers from the top of the circle,” said McLellan. “He has a willingness to battle for pucks (in close). He must have 18 to 19 like that.”
Where Heatley has been better than advertised, and he came advertised very well, is on the non goal-scoring parts of the game. He teams with linemate Joe Thornton to form a regular penalty killing unit for the NHL’s best penalty killing team and he is committed to not only scoring goals, but stopping them whenever he is on the ice.
“It’s the other parts of his game he should get credit for,” said McLellan.
McLellan says Heatley’s offensive instincts are what make him such a valuable defensive player.
“Players like that have a special hockey mind,” said McLellan. “They can pick a lot of passes off.”
Heatley’s brief time in San Jose has seen him play both the right and left wings and McLellan notes the middle could be a possibility if injuries dictated so.
“Ultimately we like him on the right side a little better, but he can play the middle if he has to,” said McLellan.
As for Heatley’s take on the season, the standings say it all. San Jose sits in first place overall and both he and the club are performing as they want.
“I think it’s going as expected and the team is where it is in the standings,” said Heatley pointing to team’s accolades instead of his own.
Heatley says that not much has changed within his game that has him scoring in some different areas or has him assisting as much in shorthanded as much as he does on the power play.
“I don’t feel I’ve changed things,” said Heatley. “The bottom line is you’ve got to find ways to produce.”
One area that Heatley has been impressed with the Sharks organization is the speed up and down the lineup that he skates with.
“This is a faster paced style of play,” said Heatley. “We don’t worry about the style of the other team.”
Much was made of the fact that Sharks Vice President Wayne Thomas was a college teammate of Heatley’s dad, but outside of that, Heatley did not know much about Silicon Valley prior to arriving.
“It’s great,” said Heatley of the Bay Area. “I hadn’t played here much being in the East, but it has a great hockey tradition. The people here love the Sharks.”
The experience in the building on game days has been a great fit as well.
“Playing at HP, it is a special place to play,” said Heatley. “You come out of the Sharks head for the first time and think it’s loud and the boys say to ‘wait until the playoffs.’”
Every Sharks player enjoys the sunshine benefits of wearing sandals and shorts to practices while getting a feel for their winter roots by looking up at the snow-capped Mount Hamilton, but Heatley seems to enjoy everything out west.
“I like the little areas, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Santa Row,” said Heatley
Culturally, Heatley has adapted to a specific cuisine of the region as Mexican food restaurants are much more plentiful and easier to find.
“I liked it before (moving to California), but there are a few more good ones down here,” said Heatley.
A few more good Mexican restaurants and a few more goals to be scored by a man in a Sharks jersey.
McLellan took the chance on Monday to give many of his Olympic players a second day in a row off as he continues to manage their ice time. The lone exception was Dan Boyle as he skated in preparation for his Thursday return to action.
“He skated today and we expect him to be back,” said McLellan.
The Sharks will host Chicago Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.