Originally posted on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 10/20/11

By Stephanie Lee

Just one week into their 2011-2012 campaign, the San Jose Sharks have played four games. Last Friday, the Sharks opened their season with a 6-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Since then, the Sharks have gone 0-3, playing twice against the Anaheim Ducks and once with the St. Louis Blues.

It’s no secret that the Sharks have never started the season off with a bang. In fact, in the past four seasons, the Sharks have gone 8-7 in their first four games (not including the two games in Stockholm, Sweden). According to the official Sharks website, defenseman Dan Boyle was quoted as saying, “The offense isn’t clicking for us just yet.” There’s really no telling WHEN it will click, but something has to happen for the Sharks to start scoring more and passing less. Even captain Joe Thornton said in interview with the Associated Press of the game against the Coyotes, “The lines worked out well. Everyone is still learning each other so we can still get better. But it was a good game.”

Surely it’s not all about scoring more and passing less. So if isn’t all about the goal scoring and passing, what else could it be about? Weak goaltending? Bad defense?

This season Sharks started off using their third back up goalie in Thomas Greiss. Last season, Greiss spent the season playing with Byrnäs of the Swedish Elite League to get some playing time. While with the team, Greiss played 32 games, earning 2 shutouts with a 2.92 goals against average. Compare that to the 2.76 total goals against average with the Sharks. After the Sharks made the playoffs, he was recalled back to the team just in case he was needed, and ultimately resigned with the Sharks on July 7. With Greiss back in the line up, it allowed the tandem of Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi to get the appropriate surgeries they so badly needed. Niittymaki undergoing groin surgery while Niemi had a cyst removed, reportedly from one of his knees. So there’s little room to judge the Sharks based off having Greiss in net when he hadn’t played in the NHL in over a year. And without their one-two punch of Finn’s, the Sharks were skating blind really. Having to use your third string goalie in place of your top two can really take some getting used to. Not to mention the new additions to the team (eight of them to be exact.)

Now, if it’s not the fact that the Sharks have been using Greiss in favor of Niemi (who started the game against St. Louis on Monday), then it could boil down to defense. Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray are the two veterans of this Sharks squad. Which means they should be the ones to be leading the blueline. Yes, Jim Vandermeer is a veteran in his own right, but not on this team. However, it appears as though Brent Burns has stepped up to whatever challenge that coach Todd McLellan has thrown their way. Through the four games played, Burns has 2 goals and 1 assist. That’s the same amount of points as Murray and Boyle combined.

Really, there’s no telling just how this Sharks squad will do. San Jose heads out on an early season six game road trip. They face the New Jersey Devils on Friday before heading to Boston to face the Bruins on Saturday.


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