Welcome to the final installment of Shark Opponents. Over the first two blogs I've covered how well the Sharks did against the returning Pacific Division teams (9-7-2) and the incoming teams from the former Northwest Division (8-1-0). Part Three goes over the Dallas Stars, who moved from the Pacific to the new Central Division, as well as the Red Wings and Blue Jackets, who are now in the Eastern Conference.
v.s. Dallas Stars
The Sharks had less success against the Stars than anyone else in the division last year, going 1-2-1 for their only losing record within the division.
Dallas outscored San Jose 12-9, despite being out-shot by the Sharks (137-107) and losing in the face-off circle (138-108).
San Jose scored three goals with the man advantage on 14 chances, Dallas scored four on 17.
2013/14 Outlook: While the Stars and Sharks will still meet during the regular season in a similar, but less, number of games, it's nice to have them out of the division. Dallas is a team on the rise and seemed to have the Sharks figured out last season. I still don't think the Stars have a better team than the Sharks but, the stats don't lie, and San Jose had trouble against Dallas last year. The switch to the new Central division should help the Stars quest for the post-season, with the Pacific being the toughest of the two Western divisions.
v.s. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets dominated the Sharks last year, going 3-0 and outscoring San Jose 14-5 in three games.
San Jose out-shot the Jackets 92-88, but failed to get the face-off advantage, only winning 76 draws to Columbus' 89.
The Sharks PP went 2/6, while Columbus went 3/8 with a man-up.
2013/14 Outlook: The Sharks struggled mightily against Columbus while Bobrovsky was on the case, so its a good thing that Blue Jackets will be in the Eastern Conference this season. The goal-well dried up for the Sharks when these two teams met for unexplained reasons. Columbus neither gains nor loses in the switch to the Eastern Conference right now. They still project to be a bubble team looking for a wildcard position while they deal with a very strong division again. Yet another case of the re-alignment benefiting the San Jose Sharks.
v.s. Detroit Red Wings
The Sharks took the season series against Detroit 2-0-1, with a low-scoring total of 6-4 over three games.
The teams added up a total of two power-play goals on 12 combined attempts in a defensively sound series.
San Jose had the edge in face-offs (99-77) and Detroit had the advantage in shots (90-80).
2013/14 Outlook: The Wings will be missed, not because the Sharks won the series, but because of the quiet rivalry that existed between the two perennial playoff teams. The Wings own the longest active playoff appearance streak, while the Sharks come in at #2. An Eastern Conference team at heart, the Wings finally got their switch for the upcoming season and leave behind a boatload of rivalries. The Sharks won last years series but there's no guarantee that would have repeated itself against Mike Babcock & Co., so good riddance. Detroit should be their usual competitive self out East as they join three Original 6 teams (Bos, Tor, Mtl), as well as the pesky Senators and the Tampa Bay Stamkos' in what will be a very fun division to watch. Not having the Hawks in their division certainly increases the Wings chances to return to a division crown, but the three original six teams that they will play against regularly will have to something to say about that.
Overall, with a record of 3-5-2 against The Departed, I'm glad they're gone. I think the Sharks have benefited greatly from the new alignment, so there are no complaints here. The moving of Detroit and Columbus to the East, I think, makes the East the stronger conference now, even though that title is debatable depending on which conference your team is in. The fact that the NHL wants to be at 32 teams within the next 5 years doesn't help the West's cause, considering how the two additional teams would come to fruition. For example, Florida relocates and expansion happens. The Panthers and an expansion team don't exactly strengthen the West.
That wraps up the Shark Opponents blogs, thanks for reading.
Stay icy, Sharks fans.