Sharks Perfect Homestand Defies Doubters

5-0-0.  The number itself is just pretty.  Nice and even without any blemishes on it.  The Sharks spent nearly two weeks and their Thanksgiving holiday at home in San Jose.  They faced three of the best teams in the West and escaped with ten out of ten points.  The Sharks perfect homestand brought everyone back to reality that this team is very good.

West is Best

The Sharks started the homestand with two inconspicuous meetings with Eastern Conference teams. A Tampa Bay team unfortunately missing their catalytic scorer and a New Jersey Devils team surprising many by not completely bombing out of this season.

The Sharks perfect homestand began with a thumping of the Lightning featuring a fine performance from Tommy Wingels.  But the dominating 5-1 victory showed off much more than just Tommy.  The first two periods were closer than many would have expected, but the third featured goals 19 seconds apart.  The Sharks put away a team in the third, a possible playoff team as well.  That should be the biggest takeaway from this contest.

Sharks perfect homestand
Brent Burns’ return is a welcome sight in San Jose (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Two nights later, the oldest team in the NHL this season rolled into town.  The Devils have two players over the age of 40, and they are both key contributors.  Future Hall-of-Famers Martin Brodeur and Jaromir Jagr have defied Father Time, but they couldn’t hold off the Sharks.  Two goals in the first period were enough to withstand a Devils surge in the third.  That night belonged to Antti Niemi, who turned in plenty of big saves as the Devils looked to tie it late.

Both of these teams are middle-of-the-road squads in a weak Eastern Conference, however.  San Jose’s next three games would be a real test.  The Sharks perfect homestand had to go through the best the NHL had to offer.  They had a few days off to prepare for the gauntlet of Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Anaheim.

Sharks Perfect Homestand Puts West on Notice

Sharks perfect homestand
There was certainly a battle at the Tank last week (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

The Kings and Sharks have made for classic match ups in the last few seasons.  A hard-fought playoff series last season has fans looking forward to the battle of SoCal and NorCal.  Dead even in shots, the two Pacific Division foes needed extra time to overthrow their rivals.  Going into the shootout, questions over whether anyone but Couture could net one.  After Logan was denied, the pressure was on.  All of a sudden, the goalies opened up and four Sharks that hadn’t come close to scoring in the skills competition did.  Even Joe Thornton!  In fact, it was Joe’s two goals with neither technically being a shot that ended up winning the contest.

Two nights later, the Sharks made the Blues look silly for a second time this season.  Four tallies in the first period were enough to win the night.  But it was Brent Burns, the freshly-shaven version, who stole the spotlight.  Brent Burns reminded everyone how good he is with his first career hat trick.  San Jose avoided a revenge game (the first time they faced the Blues after the Boyle injury) by doing what they have done best.  They shot the puck early and often.  The Blues were on their heels most of the night.

Sharks perfect homestand
Saturday featured a battle for the top spot in the division (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Finally, the next night Anaheim rolled into town.  The Sharks perfect homestand came down to the top two teams in the Pacific Division.  The Sharks jumped to a 3-1 lead and held that into the third.  But the Ducks stormed back.  If there is one point that should make Sharks fans nervous, it’s the third period.  But, Antti Niemi stepped up just in time and was perfect in the shootout.  And again, Couture missed so someone else had to step up.  Joe Pavelski net the game winner and the Sharks assumed the top spot in the Pacific.

By The Numbers

  • The penalty kill was phenomenal, killing 88% of their opportunities
  • 11 different Sharks scored goals
  • Joe Thornton recorded points in all five games and even scored 3 goals
  • No, really, Joe Thornton scored 3 GOALS
  • Logan Couture is looking more and more like a leader, he earned 6 assists
  • Antti Niemi played all five games, with a .934 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA
  • The Sharks blocked 100 shots and Justin Braun blocked 8 against the Kings alone

Blood in the Water

Even Marty Havlat scored.  When that happens, you know this team is doing well.  The Sharks look ahead to a road trip against Eastern Conference opponents.  They are firing on all cylinders and look much more like their October start.  The Sharks perfect homestand is a great sign of the Sharks depth and strength.  Brent Burns’ return has been the spark plug that has brought back the elite team that opened the season.  If the Sharks can maintain their high scoring and solid defense, a Stanley Cup is not a far-fetched fantasy.