By Mary Walsh
Tyler Kennedy and Tommy Wingels are back in the lineup, so the San Jose Sharks aren’t quite so reliant on the recently arrived or inexperienced players they turned to back in Nashville. More players should return soon, but it speaks volumes for the organization that they could weather this rash of injuries to key players at all.
At second intermission of the Nashville game, Joe Pavelski talked about the younger players suddenly so numerous in the Sharks lineup:
Obviously they’re excited to be here playing, and you … give them a tip or two here or there. You know they’re good players, they’re here for a reason and they’ll learn on the job and, you know, just get out there and do it.
Those young players did bring a lot to the game. Freddie Hamilton played well, despite the quick round trip off and back on the roster. Matt Nieto showed outstanding composure in the last minutes of the game, puck-handling in the offensive zone and ultimately finding Patrick Marleau for a last-minute goal.
It is important not to think of the guys who came out from Worcester as anything but professional hockey players. As Pavelski points out, they shouldn’t need a lot of prep, and in theory the coaching staff in Worcester has taught them the fundamentals of the Sharks’ systems.
Saturday, the Worcester Sharks won 5-1 against the Norfolk Admirals. Friday, they won 3-1 over the Hartford Wolf Pack. The wins stand out because the Worcester Sharks have had a lot of trouble scoring goals this season. They have scored more (8 back on December 6) but mostly not.
Right now, their 81 goals have them tied for last in goal scoring in the AHL. Last season, they finished ahead of three teams in goals. The season before that, in 2011-12, five teams had fewer goals. In 2010-11, three did. Back in 2009-10, only one team in the AHL scored more than the Sharks’ 275 goals.
Wait, what? There were a lot of familiar names on that roster: Logan Couture scored 20 of those 225 goals. John McCarthy scored 15, Andrew Desjardins 19. Jamie McGinn was also on that team, as were Jason Demers and Justin Braun. Well, Braun only played three games that season, but he came away with 3 assists. You get the picture. It was one heck of an AHL roster. Since then, scoring goals hasn’t been so much what the Sharks’ AHL team does.
What about defensively? This season, nine teams have given up fewer than the Worcester Sharks’ 97. Last season, 23 teams gave up fewer goals than Worcester. Oddly, only three gave up more goals, as Worcester was one of three to give up 228. In the short view, that is a significant improvement.
In 2011-12, 17 teams gave up fewer than Worcester’s 218. In 2010-11: 18 gave up fewer than the Sharks’ 245 goals against. 2009-10: 17 gave up fewer. So it is safe to say that this years’ Sharks are better defensively than the team has been in a while. Maybe the goaltenders are to blame for those bad seasons?
This season, their goaltenders are Harri Sateri and Troy Grosenick.
Sateri has played three full seasons with Worcester, 20 or more games in each season. His save percentage is down this season from the prior two, at .890.
Grosenick has played 15 games this season, with a save percentage of .920.
Alex Stalock played 30 or more games in 2010-11 and 2012-13, with save percentages of .907 and .912 respectively. He also played 61 games in the 2009-10 season, his first with the team. He had a save percentage of .908 that season.
Tyson Sexsmith played 34 games in 2011-12. His save percentage was .916.
Carter Hutton played 22 games with Worcester in 2010-11. His save percentage was .902.
Goaltending doesn’t jump out as the issue with the Sharks’ goals-against problem from 2011-13. Seems like too many shots were getting through.
This could be the Worcester Sharks’ best season defensively in quite a while. Offensively, the improvement isn’t there. Do the Sharks lack scoring depth? Or is the system in Worcester slanted for defense?
Either way, if the Sharks really want more offense from the NHL club, it probably won’t come from Worcester. Not this season anyway.