December 17, 2008
Through 30 games this season, the San Jose Sharks have sent a rather clear message:
Excuse us, rest of the NHL, but you're going to need a bigger boat.
The Sharks are a juggernaut, setting new standards for regular season dominance under first-year head coach Todd McLellan. Veterans are seeing career resurgences, young players are blossoming into stars and the Sharks' quality depth has allowed them to continue to roll through a smattering of injuries.
The Sharks enter tonight's game at the Columbus Blue Jackets -- with tomorrow's showdown with the Detroit Red Wings looming -- having built an eight-point cushion for the Western Conference lead and a 15-point advantage in their own division.
How have they done it? Here's a look at 25 interesting, revelatory and insightful numbers from the Sharks' season prior to tonight's contest -- one for each of the team's wins on the season. In some cases, the numbers aren't all that stunning; in other cases, stunning doesn't do them justice.
The San Jose Sharks' record entering action tonight, leading the NHL for most wins and fewest losses. They're 9-0-1 over their last 10 games, which is also the best current streak in the NHL. (Get used to "best in the NHL" for the rest of the article.)
The points earned by the Sharks in the best 30-game start in NHL history, passing the mark set by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins ... with the major differences in number of teams and points in the standings kept in mind. Fear the Fin was critical of our pointing out that the Sharks have a few overtime wins and a couple of charity points. It wasn't meant to diminish their accomplishment; rather, just a note of context when talking about breaking a record set when the "The Shadow" debuted ... on radio.
The combined number of points scored by the line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi. By comparison, the heralded Pizza Line of the Ottawa Senators -- Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza -- has 76 points combined. Even a super-mega line of Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk would have combined for 88 points.
Percentage of those 102 points scored by Joe Thornton (25), Patrick Marleau (22) and Devin Setoguchi (21) on home ice. All three players rank in the top 10 in the NHL in home-ice scoring.
The number of goals scored by Devin Setoguchi through 30 games. The potential was there for a breakout season like this, as his goals-per-60-minutes average at even strength last season (0.94) was impressive for 44 games. He hasn't gone more than four consecutive games without a goal.
The number of penalty minutes for that noted goon, defenseman Rob Blake. He's actually leading the team in PIMs entering Wednesday's game; but that's due to the 22 minutes in penalties Blake received against the Phoenix Coyotes on Nov. 30: two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Blake jawed with officials after a non-call.
The number of assists for defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who is on pace to shatter his previous career best of 23 and could surpass his career-high points total of 33 as well.
Number of power-play goals scored by Ryane Clowe, which had him tied for third in the League entering Tuesday night's action with players like Jarome Iginla and Keith Tkachuk. Clowe has already doubled his previous high for power-play tallies and his 14 points on the man advantage also double his previous best.
The Sharks' winning percentage when leading after two periods; trailing Atlanta, Anaheim and Colorado, all of whom have yet to lose after leading for the first 40 minutes. If coffee is for closers, throw an extra pot on for the boys in teal -- this shows a real killer instinct.
The Sharks' face-off percentage this season, up from 51.2 last year. San Jose is third in the NHL right now in face-off success behind the Detroit Red Wings (55.7) and the Nashville Predators (53.6).
The number of shorthanded goals scored on home ice by the Sharks this season. The Sharks led the NHL on the kill last regular season, but had five shorties overall. Patrick Marleau (3) and Joe Pavelski (2) lead the way shorthanded this season.
The number of goals scored by Jonathan Cheechoo this season. Stunning in the sense that the Sharks have been this good without any contribution from the formerly ferocious offensive player. Injuries have slowed him and limited him to 19 games, but this the second straight season in which Cheechoo's offense ended up on the back of a milk carton for the first three months.
The preposterous winning percentage for the Sharks when they don't score the first goal. San Jose is 10-1-1 when trailing first. The Boston Bruins are second in the NHL when trailing, going 6-2-2 (.600). So the Sharks are 15-2-1 when scoring first and 10-1-1 when trailing first. Play for the tie, people.
The number of points scored by defenseman Dan Boyle, who will have to hustle to break his career high (63) but who has already eclipsed his total from last year's injury-plagued campaign for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Matt Carle, the player the Bolts acquired for him before shipping him off to the Philadelphia Flyers, has seven points this season; Brian Campbell, the player Boyle replaced on the Sharks, has 21 for the Chicago Blackhawks. Neither of them has stated the emphatic case Boyle has for the Norris Trophy this season.
Who leads Sharks defensemen in total ice time per game? Boyle? Blake? Try Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is becoming one of the League's top two-way D-men. He's second on the team in shorthanded ice time (2:24) while blossoming into a potent offensive player.
The new consecutive-games streak record set by Joe Thornton this season for the Sharks, passing Vincent Damphousse's mark in early December.
The GAA for goalie Brian Boucher over the course of 10 starts. We've seen plenty of outstanding performances from backup goalies around the NHL this season; Boucher's is one of the best, as he's gone 8-1-1 with two shutouts -- mostly during a stretch when Evgeni Nabokov was injured.
The fighting record of Jody Shelley this season, according to the good folks over on HockeyFights.com. His lone defeat came at the hands of Donald Brashear from the Washington Capitals. But most of the brawls have looked like this one against Eric Godard of the Pittsburgh Penguins:
Number of penalties drawn by Joe Thornton this season. He averaged 0.7 penalties taken per 60 minutes last season; he's down a click to 0.6 this year. Obviously, Jeremy Roenick's correct and he doesn't get any calls.
The number of games last year's standout rookie forward Torrey Mitchell has played this season after fracturing his leg in the preseason. His absence hasn't been felt thanks to some impressive reinforcements from the AHL.
The home-ice attendance average reported by ESPN through 18 home games, placing the Sharks 15th in the NHL.
Finally, the number of goals scored at home this season by San Jose, best in the NHL. And that's how you go 16-0-2 on home ice.