The San Jose Sharks face their second Pacific Division match-up of the 2013 NHL season Tuesday, January 29 at 7:30 p.m. PST. The Anaheim Ducks come to town with just one loss (3-1-0) this season, and looking to give the Sharks their first (5-0).
Anaheim was the last-place team in the Pacific last season while San Jose finished second. However, the Ducks won five of the six contests.
The Sharks have the best goal differential in the NHL at plus-15. They have put at least four goals past the opposing goalie in every game and have scored 23 on the season—a 4.60 goals scored average (GSA). They have also given up just 24 shots a game and one total goal in their last two contests, including nine straight penalty kills (PK) to lower their goals against average (GAA) to 1.80 for the season.
San Jose is having trouble spreading the scoring around. Twelve goals have been scored on the power play (PP) plus one more 11 seconds after one ended. Joe Thornton has been on the ice for 18 goals (78.3 percent), and four of the other five were tallied with the second line on the ice.
They could use Daniel Winnik, who they let go to Anaheim last summer. Winnik has five goals and an assist on third line to lead the team, and skates with Saku Koivu who also has six points. Teemu Selanne has two goals and three assists from the second line, while stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have scored a point per game. They are joined by Bobby Ryan and a stable of young forwards to provide the scoring depth San Jose has lacked so far.
But the strength of the Ducks is on the back end, even though they have given up 14 goals in just four games. They have a solid blue line even after the departure of Lubomir Visnovsky: Francois Beauchemin, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa, Toni Lydman, Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen and Jordan Hendry. If Jonas Hiller is healthy, he is as good as any goalie out there.
San Jose’s blue line is not so healthy, with injuries to stud Brent Burns and his most able roster replacement, Jason Demers. But Matt Irwin has played well in reserve, Dan Boyle is off to his strongest start since joining the team and the time off seems to have been good to Douglas Murray. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brad Stuart have been a solid top pair, and Justin Braun shows signs of moving forward from a solid 2011-12 season on the third pair.
The Sharks win with puck possession, beating their opponents more often than not in the faceoff circle every game while still managing to keep turnovers close to even. The Sharks have increased their hitting thus far, but mostly combat their opponents’ possessions by blocking shots as well as any team in the NHL.
The Ducks are a good team, but they are worse in virtually every team category: GSA, GAA, PP, PK, faceoffs and five-on-five scoring ratio. With the threat of an extra point making the division tighter, the Sharks must set a goal of a regulation win in this game.