The newly aligned Pacific Division features 4 returning teams and 3 newcomers. In Shark Opponents I'm going to take a look at how the Sharks did against Pacific Division teams. It's going to be in three parts. Part One is this blog, The Returnees (Anaheim, Phoenix, LA). Part Two is The Newcomers (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver). Part Three is The Departed, which will cover the Dallas Stars as well as the two Western teams from the former Central Division who are now in the Eastern Conference.
v.s. Anaheim Ducks
The Sharks played five games against Anaheim in the shortened season last year and took the season series with three wins and two losses. This was the highest scoring division series for San Jose, with the Sharks recording 16 goals and Anaheim netting 12.
The Sharks had the Ducks number while Anaheim was on the powerplay last year, going perfect in 15 times shorthanded, making Anaheim the only Pacific team not to record a PP goal on San Jose.
The Sharks powerplay was as terrible as the penalty kill was fantastic, going 1 for 19 with the man advantage for a frightening 5% success rate. The five game series totaled only one powerplay goal in 34 chances for both teams.
San Jose had the edge in shots (147-139), while Anaheim held the advantage in face-offs (154-151).
2013/14 Outlook: The Sharks remain relatively unchanged, whereas the Ducks have shipped out top winger Bobby Ryan and have yet to sign Teemu Selanne, the 42 year old superathlete who just won't retire. Even if Selanne comes back to the Ducks you have to see them as a step back offensively without Ryan. Whether or not the Ducks get the 8-0 to start the year Viktor Fasth, or the 7-6-2 Viktor Fasth to end the year performance will be a big factor in the head-to-head this year. With not much changing on the Sharks side of things and losing Ryan in Anaheim, I'm inclined to think that San Jose will again have the edge by the end of the season in this series.
v.s. Phoenix Coyotes
The Sharks and Coyotes met five times last season, with the Sharks collecting 7 of a possible 10 points (3-1-1) against their division counterparts.
The powerplay went 4/17 for a 23.5% success rate, while the penalty kill was a mirror image, going 82.4%. While the PK didn't fare as well against Phoenix as it did against the Ducks, it was just under the season PK of 85%, which was good enough for 6th best in the NHL.
The Sharks held the advantage in shots (177-152) and face-offs (161-141), while outscoring Phoenix 13-8 overall.
2013/14 Outlook: Adding Ribeiro should tighten up this series closer than it was in the shortened season, but I don't see it as being enough to push Phoenix over the top of San Jose by the end of the season series. I expect much of the same performance against Phoenix as last year.
v.s. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings and Sharks split the season series 2-2 in the 48 game season.
The PP was almost identical, with the Sharks going 3 for 8 and LA going 2 for 8 in an evenly matched, entertaining set of four games.
The Kings outshot the Sharks 131-108 over the series. The Sharks had the edge in face-offs 130-126 in another display of parity between the two teams.
2013/14 Outlook: Neither team has altered their rosters much in the offseason so not much should change. The Kings are a dangerous team to play against but seem to save their best performances for the playoffs lately. Even though the series was even in points, the Kings outscored the Sharks 13-11. If the Sharks are to repeat a season split against the 2012 Cup Champions they will need to find a way to beat Jonathan Quick more than the Kings beat Niemi. A negative GF/GA usually won't work out well against the defensive wall of Darryl Sutter and the Kings.
With the four returning Pacific teams looking similar to last year I don't anticipate much of a difference in how the season series' will go. I'm not a strong believer that Anaheim can repeat last seasons success, leaving the Kings and Sharks as the top competitors in the group of four.
Next Up: The Newcomers (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver)
Thanks for reading!
Stay icy, Sharks fans.