As the year 2018 begins, the San Jose Sharks have seen better output by the young players and needed the production to trend upward.
The San Jose Sharks dismally ended 2017, getting blanked 6-0 by the Dallas Stars to begin a five-game road trip. San Jose came out flat-footed and never got going offensively. With Los Angeles and Las Vegas leading the way in the Pacific Division, a terrible night in Dallas did not help.
A shutout defeat against the Stars can pretty much sum up how 2017 went for the Sharks. March proved disastrous with San Jose limping into the playoffs against Edmonton. Injuries came at the wrong time as the Sharks exited early.
With a new season, San Jose struggled to find consistency as coach Peter DeBoer shuffled the lines in hopes a spark would come. The penalty kill remained a strength for the team, but the power play ranked near the bottom of the NHL.
San Jose Sharks
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Thornton’s productivity was a focus after re-signing with the Sharks in the offseason. His knee injury required surgery, questioning his status to start the season.
Thornton did not play well in the first few months but appears to have turned a corner. He currently leads the team with 27 points.
Like Thornton, Pavelski seemed to be off the mark in his game. He struggled to find the back of the net or generate quality scoring opportunities.
The Sharks’ captain was apparently experiencing difficulties from an injury. As of now, he has improved and is fourth on the team with 22 points.
With Thornton and Pavelski now healthy, the Sharks’ younger players are making an impact. After a season in which the San Jose Barracuda made the Western Conference Final, those players got a chance in training camp to grab roster spots.
Timo Meier has stood out in recent games as he is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Meier has shown a physical element in his game, checking opponents and battling for loose pucks in the corners.
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His game against Los Angeles before Christmas stands out as Meier got under the skin of the Kings’ players. Meier may not get on the scoresheet in games, but he has been a presence. Last game, against Montreal, he scored two goals to help San Jose win 4-1. His first goal came on the power play in the final seconds of the second period. The second goal was a snipe to the back corner of the goal past the glove of Carey Price.
Montreal is familiar to Meier after making his debut last season in the same city where he scored his first NHL goal on his first shot on net. Perhaps after his latest performance, goals will come in bunches.
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But Meier must cut down on penalties as he leads the Sharks with 35 penalty minutes. Expectations are high for the former first-round pick (2016) as players before and after his selection by the Sharks have made more significant contributions.
Kevin Labanc has seen ups and downs during the season but has held steady in the recent weeks. Labanc posted two assists against the Canadiens and had seven points (one goal, six assists) in his last five games.
Chris Tierney is hitting a groove as the third-line center as he is in a five-way tie for second on the team in goals with eight.
On the defense, Joakim Ryan and Dylan DeMelo have been useful in shutting down offensive threats. Ryan still appears to be adjusting to the NHL level but is developing into a long-term defenseman for San Jose.
DeMelo is finally getting inserted into the lineup on a nightly basis after being a healthy scratch. Since his entry, DeMelo has made the most of his playing time leaving Sharks’ management a dilemma on a crowded blue line.
Tim Heed has been a scratch lately, but has offensive prowess from the blue line with ten points in 24 games played. His transition back into the defensive zone has been evident as Heed is caught off guard by speedy forwards.
As of now, the younger players seem to be taking an initiative to ramp up offensive production. The players must continue to keep their foots on the gas pedal and not depend on the veterans to carry the load.
San Jose faces a stretch of being away from SAP Center for a good majority of the remaining season. With the different time zones and amount of travel, the Sharks’ young players will be depended upon to pick up the pace.