Circling Around the Sharks: Absolute dream week pushes San Jose toward top of the Pacific Division

Sharks in the midst of 5-game win streak, unbeaten in 2019

Gabriel John Ostler
January 11, 2019 - 3:40 pm

Up next:

This Week (all times PT):

Senators @ Sharks (Saturday, Jan. 12, 7:00pm)

Penguins @ Sharks (Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7:00pm)

Sharks @ Coyotes (Wednesday, Jan. 16, 7:00pm)

How it Went

An absolute dream week for San Jose, as they built on a strong end to 2018 with a roaring leap into 2019.

Starting off with a fairly shocking upset over a stacked Tampa Bay Lightning squad at the SAP Center, the Sharks then proceeded to coolly dispatch all three Pacific Division challengers and leap into second place in said division. Following the intense win over Vegas, the Sharks also find themselves third in the standings for the entire NHL.

What’s Coming

Two more showdowns to go in the Shark Tank after what’s been essentially a four-game homestand.

Then the boys in teal hit the road up until the All-Star Break, which is being held this year right in beautiful San Jose. The week ahead sandwiches a tough matchup between two struggling opponents, as Ottawa and Arizona both lie well out of playoff contention while Sid the Kid and Pittsburgh still swing their weight near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Keep an eye on the quick turnaround between Tuesday and Wednesday — a slugfest against the Penguins followed by a jaunt to the desert and a game less than 24 hours later is no easy ask.

Trending Up

Last week, the goalie play was scrutinized, as both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell seemed less able to stop a Puck than Oberon or Titania. The eight-goal eruption by the Flames in Calgary was particularly bothersome, and letting Edmonton and Colorado each put four in the net wasn’t much more reassuring.

This week, both Jones and Dell seemed to find their feet, as none of their four opponents were able to score more than twice — even the thunderous Lightning. Jones got wins over Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, and shut the door on Vegas by stopping 36 of 38 shots on his birthday!

Dell rebounded from the Calgary debacle by putting in a strong performance against the Oilers. One week does not a turnaround make, but it looks for the moment that San Jose’s netminders have started to figure it out between the pipes.

Joonas Donskoi just keeps getting better? His well-documented cold streak through much of 2018 seems a distant memory, as now, Donskoi’s like an obsessed John Williams — he can’t stop scoring. Including the Sharks’ win over Edmonton on the Dec. 29, Donskoi has eight goals in seven games. He’s only been kept out of the net by Tampa Bay, and even in that contest he had a positive plus/minus.

Trending Down

It’s difficult to say that anyone can be in a slump on a team that’s won seven out of their last eight games, but even amidst the deluge of goals currently pouring from the Sharks’ coffers, Timo Meier has been unable to join in the fun.

After a white-hot start to the season, it’s now been almost a full calendar month since Meier has lit the lamp. He still has 18 goals in this campaign — already close to a career-high — and his scoring generally results from physical play and feeding off proper passes after obtaining position rather than any consistent sniping or technical wizardry, which makes him prone to streaky behavior. Still, you’d like to see the 22-year-old be contributing more to the cause as the Sharks improve and gel and the season rolls on — not less.

Injuries

After staying largely injury-free all year, the Sharks were hit hard in quick succession, with ailments befalling three starting defensemen; paradoxically, this resulted in some of the best defensive hockey the Sharks have played so far this campaign.

Radim Simek has already returned from the concussion he sustained after a cheap shot from the Flames’ Sam Bennett, which has relegated AHL call-up Jake Middleton to press box duty.

Mainstays Marc-Edouard Vlasic (undisclosed) and Justin Braun (knee) look no closer to returning and are unlikely at this point to see the ice until early-to-mid February, so get ready for more looks at Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan in the interim.

Summary

The win over the Lightning really set the tone for the week, as the Sharks balanced offensive explosion with sound defensive play and gritty resolve. From the coasting touchdown and extra point against Edmonton to the come-from-behind squeaker over Vegas, San Jose showed that they can get it done in a variety of ways.

There’s every opportunity for the Sharks to claim first place in the Pacific Division before the All-Star Break. Let’s see if they can maintain the focus and intensity necessary to welcome the league to the SAP Center as the class of the West.

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