Sharks Thriving Playing Faster Game

Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 2:46 PM PT / News
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Sharks Thriving Playing Faster Game
In the latest edition of Over the Boards, Dan Rosen examines how the San Jose Sharks are thriving early in the 2013-14 season playing a faster game.

The San Jose Sharks are playing faster than they ever have under coach Todd McLellan, and it has given them a chance to have the puck more too. The combination of speed and possession has provided some staggering early-season results.

The Sharks lead the NHL with 21 points because they're also first in goals (3.92 per game) and shots on goal (37.8 per game). They are a League-best plus-160 in the shots on goal department (454-294) and are second to only the Colorado Avalanche in goals-against per game (1.58).

"That's all speed," NBC analyst Pierre McGuire told NHL.com. "Their general manager [Doug Wilson] realized something that some of us recognized a long time ago: His team was too slow so he started to jettison some slower players. Dany Heatley was moved. Ryane Clowe was moved. Douglas Murray was moved. They brought in younger legs, quicker legs. They put a huge emphasis on speed, and it's really paid off."

All of what McGuire mentioned is true, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan noted that the speed in his team's game didn't come solely because Wilson rejiggered his roster by trading Heatley after the 2010-11 season and then Clowe, Murray and Michal Handzus before the trade deadline last season.

The holdovers from the slower Sharks teams, most notably Joe Thornton, have had to adapt to playing faster as well.

"There is a group of players still here that didn't play fast and was stubborn enough not to," McLellan told NHL.com. "I hope we've changed that. We've got them believing, and it has to continue."

The Sharks' speed was evident in two goals they scored Sunday in a 5-2 win at the Ottawa Senators. The first came off the stick of Andrew Desjardins and gave San Jose a 2-0 lead.

The Sharks were in the midst of a line change, but Scott Hannon forced Erik Karlsson to give up the puck at the San Jose blue line. Desjardins, who had just come onto the ice, then undercut Karlsson to beat him to the loose puck on the half-wall. He quickly moved it across the ice to Brad Stuart, who carried the puck around Jean-Gabriel Pageau and up the right-wing boards.

Desjardins and John McCarthy went to the net. Stuart shot from the top of the right circle, the rebound came out to the high slot, and Desjardins used his backhand to whip it past Craig Anderson from the left hash marks.

"They're quick and then they have a fast transition," NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. "They get the puck in the defensive zone and, bang, they're going the other way. They're aggressive on you with their speed so they don't give you a lot of time and space, and then they transition and get going up the ice quick. They hold the puck in the offensive zone for the same reason, for that same quickness and speed."

Joe Pavelski's goal Sunday capped the 5-2 win. Again, it was a transition goal created because of San Jose's speed after Senators defenseman Jared Cowen whiffed on a one-timer from the blue line.

Pavelski broke up the ice as Tommy Wingels got to the puck. Wingels moved it up to Pavelski in transition. Sharks defenseman Justin Braun joined the rush, beating Senators forward Cory Conacher up the ice. He got the puck on the right side and used his body to ward off Conacher so he could carry the puck through the circle before feeding it to the middle, where Pavelski was able to slam it in.

"It was a team that in the past you'd always say, 'They're good, but can you take them seriously?'" Button said. "I watch their team now and I think they're real, I think they're legitimate, and I'm talking Stanley Cup contenders. I'm not talking about let's wait and see, I really like this team, I like the way they play. I see them as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender."

Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer

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PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 51 24 7 236 226 109
2 y - STL 82 51 24 7 248 201 109
3 x - NSH 82 47 25 10 232 208 104
4 x - CHI 82 48 28 6 229 189 102
5 x - VAN 82 48 29 5 242 222 101
6 x - MIN 82 46 28 8 231 201 100
7 x - WPG 82 43 26 13 230 210 99
8 x - CGY 82 45 30 7 241 216 97
9 LAK 82 40 27 15 220 205 95
10 DAL 82 41 31 10 261 260 92
11 COL 82 39 31 12 219 227 90
12 SJS 82 40 33 9 228 232 89
13 EDM 82 24 44 14 198 283 62
14 ARI 82 24 50 8 170 272 56

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 37 33 12 70
L. Couture 82 27 40 -6 67
J. Thornton 78 16 49 -4 65
B. Burns 82 17 43 -9 60
P. Marleau 82 19 38 -17 57
T. Wingels 75 15 21 -7 36
T. Hertl 82 13 18 -5 31
M. Nieto 72 10 17 -12 27
M. Karlsson 53 13 11 -3 24
M. Vlasic 70 9 14 12 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 31 23 7 .914 2.59
A. Stalock 8 9 2 .902 2.62
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