San Jose Sharks preview

The San Jose Sharks have been one of the best teams in the regular season the past few years, but one of the biggest disappointments when it comes to the playoffs.

No one seems to know why. They just don’t get the timely scoring when it counts the most, despite the amount of talent they have.

With a new coach and a revamped blueline, they’re hoping to get over the hump this year.

Forwards: Joe Thornton will be a beast this year, at least in the regular season. The former Bruin has shone on the west coast. Last year’s point total of 92 was his lowest in three years. That’s a pretty good letdown. Thornton is able to stay physical and is hard to knock off the puck.

Patrick Marleau is the captain of the team, but needs to prove it this year. His numbers have gone down each of the last three seasons, to a disappointing 48 points last year, and a career-worse minus 19.

Milan Michalek and Joe Pavelski are two young players on the team that are improving every season. They should be getting more ice time this year and increased productivity as a result.

Defence: The Sharks overhauled their defence this year. They traded for Dan Boyle, who missed a lot of time last season due to a freak injury. But he’s been durable the rest of his career, so the Sharks are expecting big numbers out of him.

The Sharks also signed Rob Blake. While he may not be the offensive threat he once was, he will bring leadership to the blueline that was missing before. He’ll be counted on to kill penalties, play strong defensively and be an all-around force back there.

Goaltending: Evgeni Nabokov is the team’s number one goalie, and would probably be the number one goalie on all but three teams. Last season, he first in games played and wins, and top five in goals against and shutouts. The Sharks just need to be careful they don’t play him too much and tire him out, especially in the tough Western conference.

Pool picks:Take a chance on Ryan Clowe. I don’t just say that because he’s a Newfie, but because he’s due for a breakout year. He’ll probably be off a lot of radars because he has a tendency to get injured often, but if he’s able to play a full season, he should be able to get 60 points. Stay away from: Jonathan Cheechoo. Despite having every opportunity to play on the top line, Cheechoo’s numbers have gone down every season, resulting in only 37 points last year. Chances are he won’t rebound from that.

Miscellaneous: The Sharks have been on the Stanley Cup contenders for the past four seasons, but could never get over the hump to get to the finals. So the team fired coach Ron Wilson, and hired Todd McLellan as the new coach. The Sharks soon have to win the Cup, because teams can’t stay Stanley Cup favourites for long.

Expected finish: Second in the Pacific division, fourth in the Western conference.

Overall: The Sharks will enjoy another stellar season. They’ll be a tough team to play against, and will win the majority of their games. However, they’ll only be judged based on how they do in the playoffs, and that’s a long six months away.


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