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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 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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