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Thursday, October 2, 2008

The SAN JOSE SHARKS SPR by Frozen Pill

2 October 2008

For the previous three seasons since the lockout (the New NHL), the SAN JOSE SHARKS have qualified for the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. For the third season in a row, they were sent packing back to northern California after being ousted in the second round. Many had concluded the SHARKS were the favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Finals…if they could get past Detroit. But the meeting of Red vs. Teal never occurred with Dallas beating the favored SHARKS in game 6 of the second round after a four-overtime duel.

This time though the SHARKS coach Ron Wilson barely had time to unpack his bags before it was determined a new coach was in order to surpass this second round curse. Enter Red Wings assistant, Todd McLellan. The Sharks, having acquired the coveted Brian Campbell at the trade deadline last season, watched as Campbell decided to sign a rest-of-his-playing-days type contract with Chicago. So SAN JOSE solidified the defensive corps with new additions, Dan Boyle, Rob Blake and Brad Lukowich – all of whom wear Stanley Cup rings. The intent here is obvious.

The SHARKS goalie, Evgeni Nabakov saw more action than any other net minder last season (77 games, 46 wins) and the team were 45-3-7 when tied or leading after two periods. By all standards this was a solid defensive performance for a team better known for their huge and potentially deadly offense. But several key players underperformed on offense and the SHARKS hope to return to normal form this season.

In the previous season, OGA was able to call the SAN JOSE SHARKS qualified for post-season play by the end of their 30th game (13 DECEMBER 2007). In the 06-07 season, OGA saw the team qualify by 15 NOVEMBER 2006. Certainly the SHARKS have a solid team ready to compete every night and as we measure the team effort as played against the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC). OGA expects another early qualification.

During the course of the 2007/8 NHL Season:
  • The SAN JOSE SHARKS finished +8.0 against the PQC
  • The SHARKS finished in the top 10 (10th) in the league on Power Play percentage (18.72%)
  • The SHARKS finished a very impressive (surprising?) 1st in the league on Penalty Kill percentage (85.81%)
  • Although the team’s defense and goalie posted impressive numbers, the SHARKS still finished second to last (29th) in saves but 3rd in the league in Goals Against (2.28)
  • The SHARKS have advanced to the Stanley Cup playoffs each year since the lockout and were eliminated, each time, in the second round
This team has arguably strengthened an already sturdy defensive presence in front of the net and the offense stands to improve as players like Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau hope to regain the scoring prowess they were lacking last season. The team’s point-leader, Joe Thornton (96 points), was followed by Milan Michalek in this department with 55. Obviously, SAN JOSE will seek to spread the offense out amongst their lines more evenly as they build their surge towards the playoffs with a deep bench. But first, they must play 82 games!

Against our OGA-developed Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), the SHARKS typically start strong on the season and play well against the Curve. For example, by the 20-game mark, they are playing at an average of +1.3 against the PQC. Most interesting are the consistent trends this team exhibits when their performance over the past three seasons is calculated against the PQC. Let’s examine together…

(cont)…In the previous three seasons, the SAN JOSE SHARKS have started strong and, with exception of the 05-06 season, have played above the OGA-developed Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC). Amazingly, the SHARKS tend to follow the same of trend of play in each season since the lockout. Beginning the season, the team plays very close to the Curve and are either ABOVE or WITHIN the Curve by game 30. The SHARKS then have a small lapse, dipping below optimal play by game 40. They then move upwards by game 50 and then drop again -1 to -2.5 points BELOW the Curve by game 60. Corrections are in order and the team then surges upwards (dramatically so last season) to finish the campaign 1 to 2 full points ABOVE the Curve. See the chart below for the SHARKS’ play in relation to the PQC over the past three campaigns.

This season, the SAN JOSE SHARKS’ first 10 games of the season are played 9 OCTOBER – 28 OCTOBER. Our research indicates they earn a PQC rating of 5.7 during this time frame. The SHARKS will play 3 back-to-back series in the first ten games of the 2008/9 NHL season. While this may be a taxing way to begin the season for players who haven’t played much hockey the last few months, this should allow the SHARKS to get their skates under them and legs warmed up in quick order. If they play well (as they usually do to start a new season), we expect to see the team climb with another +Rating compared to the PQC within the first 10-20 games.

Some statistics of note to manage your expectations in to late OCTOBER are:
  • Post lockout, the SHARKS’ record in the first 10-game segments is 16-12-2
  • The team’s 3-year per-game averages: 3.03 GF and 2.58 GA
  • Two of the three SHARKS’ season openers have seen overtime before a victor; once resulting in an OT win, the other resulting in a shoot-out loss
  • SAN JOSE has played a total of 48 games requiring either OT or a Shootout. The SHARKS will play an average of 2 OT games per 10-game period
OGA will be measuring the SHARKS against their PQC Rating of 5.7 (as well as with all other NHL teams) in order to provide you more in-depth analysis with the SAN JOSE SHARKS Game 10 Report. The G10R will be delivered to our subscription customers by 2PM Central on 29 OCTOBER and available for purchase online by 2PM Central, 30 OCTOBER. See the OGA store for more details HERE. You can also view a sample for our G10R HERE. (Make sure to view all 3 tabs!)

Over the previous three years (post-lockout), the SHARKS earn a PQC rating of 5.3. But keep an eye out for their systemic drops in relation to the PQC by games 40 and 60 followed by a huge push and tough, offensive play as they close out the season making ready for another run at the Cup. They also know how to dominate a close game as last season showed them securing points in the standings in one-goal games with a record of 26-7-10. Also of note is the SHARKS tendency to play well in back-to-back games. Since the lockout, the SHARKS have won 30 and lost 13 of back-to-back contests.

The SHARKS are well rested and their underperforming offensive threats from last season are eager for redemption. The defense has been made stronger by off-season acquisitions and they will be playing under a new coach. Again, of course, expectations are high. And the fans are anxious to see this team break the 2nd round barrier.

OGA will be measuring their team performance against the PQC online and via our Game Reports available for purchase. For your best value, see our subscription information HERE. In the meantime, stay tuned to The OGA Blog and check out the SAN JOSE SHARKS G10R for a thorough review of the team’s performance as measured against our proprietary PQC.

Tomorrow we wrap up the On Goal Analysis Season Preview Reports with an optimistic look on the TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS in the SPR. After all, even OGA knows they have to actually play the games…at least 10 of them.

Remember, it’s only a puck until you take one in the teeth. Then, it’s a Frozen Pill.

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