A lot of people are wondering how the Sharks are playing such great hockey despite their lack of scoring.
At the beginning of the season the Sharks had no trouble scoring and winning games. They outscored their opponents 29 to 12 in the first seven games of the season. After that remarkable run, February came along and destroyed what had been the best record in the NHL. That month was the month that everything went crazy. Outscored 31 to 16 the Sharks were looking for answers. Coaches were put on the hot seat, and trade rumors began floating around. Since those first two months, the goal differential has evened out, but the Sharks are still not happy. Averaging a 2.06 goals per game average, the Sharks needed to try something new.
GM Doug Wilson addressed the team to shoot first, and not be too fancy with the puck. He said that the league is now a shoot first league, and the Sharks need to get used to it and adapt to the playing style.
Coach Todd McLellan then decided that with desperate times come desperate measures. The Brent Burns experiment was born.
Brent Burns was originally a forward when he began his career with the Minnesota Wild, so the position was not entirely new. Burns quickly re-adapted to the position, and was thriving. Averaging one point per game as a forward, Burns has impressed more people than just his coaches. Captain Joe Thornton said that he loved having Burns on his line, and that he doesn’t care who else is on the line with him.
People will say that the Sharks are winning games because of defense. That is true, but not 100% true. The answer to the question of why the Sharks keep winning is simple. Goaltending. Antti Niemi has been remarkable this season, keeping the Sharks in every game no matter how many goals the Sharks have scored in the game. He has a .923 save percentage, and 2.19 GAA, which is good for 9th and 11th in the league respectively. His regulation stats are not the best in the league, but shootouts have been his forte this year. The Sharks have 21 wins this seasons, 20 of which belong to Niemi. Seven of those wins have come in the shootout. The Sharks ROW is taking a beating this year, but two points is better than one, and Niemi is making it possible.
So why do the Sharks keep playing good hockey? Niemi, and Burns. Niemi for the obvious reason of keeping the Sharks in games, and Burns because he jump-started the team. When he started to score, everyone played better hockey.
Honorable mentions for why the Sharks keep winning go to Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray, and Michal Handzus. When three veterans who are fan favorites get traded due to not being productive on the ice, it sends a message to the team. That is what happened when the trio of players were dealt, and it woke the team up.