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Sharks Thriving Playing Faster Game

Wednesday, 10.30.2013 / 5:46 PM / 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

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NSH 64 41 16 7 192 155 89
2 ANA 64 40 17 7 189 177 87
3 STL 63 40 18 5 197 159 85
4 CHI 64 38 21 5 188 152 81
5 WPG 64 32 20 12 179 172 76
6 VAN 62 36 23 3 180 167 75
7 MIN 62 33 22 7 176 161 73
8 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
9 LAK 62 29 21 12 166 162 70
10 SJS 64 31 25 8 179 181 70
11 COL 63 27 25 11 167 182 65
12 DAL 63 27 26 10 196 210 64
13 ARI 63 20 36 7 138 214 47
14 EDM 63 18 35 10 143 208 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 64 32 27 12 59
L. Couture 64 21 33 0 54
J. Thornton 60 12 41 -2 53
B. Burns 64 16 31 -3 47
P. Marleau 64 15 31 -16 46
T. Wingels 57 13 16 -3 29
T. Hertl 64 10 15 -1 25
J. Braun 53 1 19 3 20
M. Vlasic 59 7 12 11 19
M. Nieto 54 4 13 -10 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 24 17 7 .912 2.62
A. Stalock 6 7 1 .904 2.66
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