For the Sharks to even have a chance at surpassing the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the Pacific Division, these two areas of the game will need to be at 100 percent.
Lately, there has been a whirlwind of speculation surrounding Antti Niemi‘s starting role on this team. Fueled by a red-hot Alex Stalock, Niemi’s critics have been adamant for a switch in the goaltender roles.
Who can blame them? Niemi has been terribly inconsistent as of late and Stalock has been absolutely stellar. Although I am a huge Stalock fan and I am all for him getting more playing time, I can tell you this: the Sharks will not be switching the roles because Niemi has already proven himself as one of the league’s top goalies. Instead, Niemi will be forced to prove himself as the organization’s top goaltender. When Niemi is in the zone, the Sharks are as well.
If Niemi is able to get back to the Niemi that we know, he will not only be silencing his critics but he will also be propelling the Sharks toward the division title that we all dream of.
The most concerning stat for the Sharks this year has been their depth scoring, or lack there of. In Blades of Teal’s midseason forward grades we presented a chart that showed the total points categorized by line. The difference between the top two lines and the bottom two was insane.
Guys like Tommy Wingels, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Nieto, and Martin Havlat seriously need to get their names on the scoresheet more often if the Sharks want to close out the season on a high note. This team will not go far if they only rely on their top two lines. A hockey team that isn’t able to consistently run four lines with some type of consistent scoring basically has no chance at the Stanley Cup.
Do not — and I seriously mean do not — judge the Ducks based on their recent struggles. Yes, a large part of why the Sharks were able to get in such close proximity standing wise of their rivals was because the Ducks have gone 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. I think we all know how good the Ducks really are and the Sharks will, by no means, catch up to the Ducks easily.
However, it can’t be denied that the Sharks are in good position to make a run for the division title. With injured players returning, a good home record during the home stretch, solid goaltending, and depth scoring I see no reason why the Sharks won’t be able to at least give the Ducks a scare.
Everyone mark your calendars, the Pacific Division could potentially come down to these games:
Thursday, March 20 @ San Jose 7:30 PM
Wednesday, April 9 @ Anaheim 7:30 PM