Half past nine doesn't really seem like that late to start a hockey game, but anyone with a normal work schedule starts to wobble a bit come the third period. I'm already getting tired just thinking about it.
Nashville dives into the Shark Tank tonight, but they have no idea which species of Shark will be greeting them. Will it be the high-scoring ones who can't be beat? Or will it be the ones that are easily tamed and let everything past them.
The San Jose Sharks
The Sharks started off the season hotter than hot.
As if they had laser beams attached to their heads, San Jose outscored their opponents by 11 goals in their first four games. Newly crowned starter Martin Jones had the barrier going early, as he only allowed two in that span. Jones was one of the big questions entering the season, if only because his resume wasn't/isn't very extensive. He may soon lay those to rest, but not quite yet.
The team cooled off to end their East Coast road trip, losing to the Islanders and Rangers by a combined score of 10-3. Then Los Angeles got some retribution for their opening night embarrassment, and handed the Sharks a 4-1 loss. Currently, they sit with 12 points at 5-3-0, thanks to another dominating win against the Carolina Hurricanes where Joel Ward scored a hat trick.
We will now pause while we watch Joel Ward score a hat trick.
Sharks fans are quickly falling in love with their newest winger, as Capitals fans did before them. For good reason, too. Wardo is now leading the team in goals and points, thanks to that offensive performance. That won't last, but the they are at least getting contributions from the usual suspects like Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns. Paul Martin won't be confused with a Norris worthy defenseman, but he may be one of the more underrated free agent pickups of the summer. So far, he seems to be complementing Burns extremely well. Keep an eye on that duo.
Statistically, the Preds and the Sharks are very close together on paper. San Jose has scored 22 goals, Nashville 23. Nashville has allowed 16, the San Jose 18. They are separated by only .2 points in score adjusted shot attempts percentage, though SJS is more than a full percentage point better in scoring chances. In the early season, the biggest noticeable difference right now is special teams. Nashville's are good, Sharks are.. well, not so good.
My guess? Prepare for an evenly contested match up. With the exception of a game or two, Jones has been a rock in the crease. His numbers are sterling, so even though he's only seven games into the season (and 41 into his career), for now he appears to be a legit starter.
It may be safe to say that last week's set of games went even better than expected. The result may not have been there Saturday night, (thanks, Geno) but the Predators dominated two struggling but potentially dangerous teams and went toe-to-toe with the Eastern Conference champs. Two wins in that fashion make Nashville's lackadaisical start against those bad and boring teams... but doesn't that seem like a lifetime ago?
For funsies, let's look at the last game in visual form:
15 shots, five blocked shots, and one goal coming from high or medium danger areas. Now Pittsburgh's defense isn't that impressive, but you can see they did do a decent job of keeping plenty of shots to the outside. However, Nashville penchant to shoot as often as they could led to them getting second and third looks. The bigger letters represent rebounds, and most of those in the dangerous area are exactly that. Once again, credit Marc-Andre Fleury for standing on his head on Saturday.
That's three games where the Predators have put their foot through the gas pedal. Against a Sharks team that can't decide if they want to score or allow all the goals, that's the type of thing that needs to continue.
Reasons to Watch
- Brent Burns is as close as you're going to get to seeing an early release of The Force Awakens.
- You can watch Mattias Ekholm skate around and know that after the next 74 games are over, he'll still be inked in Nashville for six years.
- You can take a nap when you get home from work, and get up just in time for hockey. How awesome is that? Plus, it's not every Wednesday night you have an excuse to chug coffee with Red Bull chasers. Your heart will thank you.
We already know this is a 9:30 Nashville start, but this one is going national. NBCSN on your tubes, NBC Live Extra on your computers, tablets, or streaming devices, and 102.5 The Game on your radios. Get it.