Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008-2009 San Jose Sharks: 50 Ways to Win a Game

With yet another victory last night (this one a 3-2 shootout win over the up and coming LA Kings), the San Jose Sharks move to a league best 25-3-2 record.

While this record nets the Sharks the # spot (and justifiably so) in both the Ross McKeon Yahoo! Sports NHL Power Rankings and that from Allan Muir at CNNSI, what's encouraging to me isn't the win-loss record or how experts stack the Sharks up against the rest of the league, but the way the Sharks have gone about winning games.

You gotta keep in mind that wins at this point of the season get lost forever if there's a playoff flameout, but that wins now can also turn out to be very important come playoff time. The two things that can cause these wins to matter are (1) overall team confidence and (2) team confidence in a variety of situations.

Overall team confidence: The last few seasons have shown that whatever team ultimately wins the Stanley Cup for a given season usually started fast. Early season wins can help a team establish a baseline level of confidence so they can weather a tough midseason run (as the Detroit Red Wings had last Jan/Feb), and come out of it still believing in themselves.

Team confidence in a variety of situations: This gets at the part of the Sharks early season success that makes me most excited... they seem to win in all types of situations. This month alone, they've had...

A. Wins in which their skating was matched (12/4 vs the Columbus Blue Jackets)
B. Wins in which their hard work was matched (12/13 vs the St Louis Blues) and
C. Wins in which they had to muck and grind (12/11 vs the Anaheim Ducks)

Throw in a game in which they took an early lead and cruised to victory (12/2 vs the Toronto Maple Leafs), one in which they were down 2-0 and still won (12/15 vs the LA Kings) and one in which they dominated the shot count and lost in OT (12/6 vs the Edmonton Oilers) and you've got a 5-0-1 record month to date.

Not bad results at all, but again... the great thing to me is that they're getting the wins a variety of different ways, which is what the best teams do in the playoffs. Proof will of course be in the pudding, but me thinks it's a good precursor of things to come. I hope, I hope, I hope.

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