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Why the Sharks Will Win the Stanley Cup

Monday, 04.14.2014 / 3:56 PM / News
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Why the Sharks Will Win the Stanley Cup
The Sharks have been a good regular-season team for the better part of the past decade, but this season San Jose is primed to carry that success deep into June.

The San Jose Sharks rocketed out of the gate this season, but that's nothing new. It's carrying that strong play through 82 games as well as two months in the Stanley Cup Playoffs which has been the issue.

But there's something different about this Sharks team. After their 10-1-1 start this season, it never really let up. That kind of staying power through the regular season should carry into the postseason. And that's why, after nine straight seasons of banging on the door, this is the year the Sharks kick it open and win the Stanley Cup.

The Sharks feature one of the deepest, most-skilled forward groups in the League. Joe Thornton, 34, remains the linchpin, centering the top line and producing at his usual top-end level.

But it's the other Joe who has stepped up his play to Hart Trophy level. Joe Pavelski had his first 40-goal season and his versatility has been invaluable to coach Todd McLellan, who has used him on the wing on the top line with Thornton and Brent Burns, and as a third-line center to spread around the scoring.

More than his offensive contributions, Pavelski kills penalties and is the best on the team at faceoffs.

A top line of Pavelski, Thornton and Burns is big, fast and strong, as is a second line of Logan Couture between Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels. Couture is an elite performer and Marleau has 30 goals for the seventh time. Wingels, 25 and in his first full NHL season, has blossomed as a strong net-front presence.

Beyond the top six are impressive rookie Matt Nieto, six-time 20-goal scorer Marty Havlat, Tyler Kennedy and Raffi Torres.

And then there's rookie sensation Tomas Hertl, who returned for the final two games of the regular season. The flashy 20-year-old had 15 goals and 25 points in 35 games prior to sustaining a major knee injury in December. But Hertl has been skating since the end of February and was cleared to practice with contact in early April. Getting Hertl back makes the Sharks even more explosive.

And not only can the Sharks score, their possession numbers are among the best in the League.

Part of the possession-number story is smart defensemen making solid plays out of the defensive zone. The Sharks don't have anyone flashy on defense, but led by Marc-Edouard Vlasic they make the game very difficult for the opposition.

And as far as last lines of defense go, goalie Antti Niemi is a pretty good one. He had another outstanding season, and the team in front of him does its best to make it easy, allowing fewer than 28 shots per game. Niemi certainly knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.

The Sharks have been a top-level team all season. There's no doubt they can keep it up long enough to win the Cup.

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 48 32 10 6 143 124 70
2 NSH 46 31 10 5 141 107 67
3 STL 46 29 13 4 148 111 62
4 CHI 47 30 15 2 148 108 62
5 WPG 49 26 15 8 138 122 60
6 SJS 48 25 17 6 131 132 56
7 VAN 46 26 17 3 124 118 55
8 CGY 48 26 19 3 140 126 55
9 LAK 47 20 15 12 129 126 52
10 COL 49 20 18 11 128 141 51
11 DAL 47 21 19 7 146 154 49
12 MIN 47 21 20 6 130 138 48
13 ARI 47 16 25 6 108 160 38
14 EDM 48 12 27 9 110 160 33

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 48 24 18 10 42
L. Couture 48 18 24 2 42
J. Thornton 44 10 27 0 37
B. Burns 48 11 24 -6 35
P. Marleau 48 9 24 -10 33
T. Wingels 47 11 14 -2 25
J. Braun 47 1 18 4 19
T. Hertl 48 8 9 -2 17
M. Vlasic 47 6 10 13 16
J. Sheppard 42 4 9 -2 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 19 11 5 .912 2.57
A. Stalock 5 5 1 .905 2.65
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