Every week during the NHL season, you can find a column right here, highlighting the news and stories that may not be getting enough attention. In the early stages of the season, we often see surprising and unexpected results due to small sample sizes. Some outcomes defy our expectations, while others confirm what we thought we knew. Today, we’ll be diving into a team that doesn’t come as a shock on a larger scale, but is definitely standing out when you take a closer look.
The San Jose Sharks were not expected to be a winning team in the 2023-24 season. After a 60-point campaign last year and the trade of Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson over the summer, it’s safe to say that the odds were stacked against them. So, it’s not surprising to see them start the season with a 0-4-1 record. However, what’s truly remarkable is just how dismal their performance has been. They’ve been outscored 19-7 and outshot by an average of 15.4 attempts per game. To put it in perspective, their average of 39.2 shots conceded per game would be the highest on record, while their 23.8 shots for would be the fourth-worst. Out of 1,416 teams, that level of ineptitude is quite impressive.
That being said, it’s important to consider the schedule the Sharks have faced so far. Their first four games were against tough opponents like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, and Boston Bruins. The only team that was somewhat evenly matched with them was the Nashville Predators. So, while the Sharks are definitely not a good team, it’s too early to label them as one of the worst teams in NHL history.
Moving on, let’s talk about volume shooters and their struggles to find the back of the net this season. In the NHL, one of the most reliable ways to score points is by putting pucks on net. This not only increases the chances of scoring goals but also indicates how much time a player spends in threatening offensive situations. However, this season, the top volume shooters in the league haven’t had as much success as expected. Out of the top 20 players with the most shots on goal, 12 have scored on less than 10% of their attempts, and three players haven’t scored a goal yet. Even the NHL’s current goal leader, Alex DeBrincat, is ranked 26th in shots. This doesn’t mean that shooting the puck is less effective this season; it simply highlights the odd results we often see in the early stages of a new season. So, if you’re a fantasy manager, this might be a good time to look for buy-low opportunities on players who are doing everything right but aren’t getting the results yet.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Boston Bruins and their struggles to get offensive production from their centers. Despite winning all five of their games so far, the Bruins have only faced one playoff team from last season – the Los Angeles Kings. A major factor in their success has been their goaltenders, who have achieved a collective save percentage of .953. While the team’s solid defense plays a role in this, it’s not a sustainable number that will last throughout the season. Additionally, the Bruins had a concerning question mark coming into the season – how to replace the production of retired players Patrice Bergeron and David Krejčí in the center position. Although Matthew Poitras scored two goals on Sunday, the question of offensive production from the center position still remains unanswered. While Pavel Zacha is expected to step up, the rookie duo of Poitras and Johnny Beecher is untested, and Charlie Coyle is ideally suited for a third-line role. Out of the Bruins’ 16 goals this season, nine have come from Brad Marchand and David Pastrňák. If the Bruins want to have a successful campaign, they’ll need more contributions from their centers, but it’s still uncertain what exactly they’ll get from that position.
Shifting our focus to penalty kills, we’ll take a look at the Dallas Stars, who are currently the only team in the NHL that hasn’t conceded a power-play goal. The Stars have played just four games so far, but their penalty-killing unit has been excellent. Last season, they ranked third in the league in penalty-killing percentage, and they have key players like Jake Oettinger, Esa Lindell, Radek Faksa, and Jani Hakanpää who excel in this area. With a strong penalty kill, the Stars should be hard to exploit in 5-on-4 situations throughout the season. While their perfect record is unlikely to last, they have the pieces in place to maintain a solid penalty kill.
Finally, let’s talk about faceoff struggles for the Chicago Blackhawks. Winning faceoffs may not be the determining factor for a team’s success, but the Blackhawks are currently struggling to secure possession, winning just 37.1% of their draws. This is an abnormally low percentage, and it’s worth noting that the lowest percentage a team has achieved over a full season is 44.1%. The Blackhawks’ inability to win faceoffs could be an interesting case study on the importance of winning possession, particularly on special teams where losing the puck can be detrimental. So far, the Blackhawks have been a mixed bag in this regard, with a dismal power play but a respectable penalty kill.
So, while the NHL season is still in its early stages and odd results are to be expected, there are definitely some intriguing stories and trends to keep an eye on.
Sarah Anderson dives into the fast-paced world of NHL hockey. Her coverage includes game analysis, player spotlights, and the latest news from the ice. Sarah’s dedication to the sport ensures that hockey enthusiasts stay informed about the NHL’s thrilling action.