Unexpected contributors propel Sharks up the standings


Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It's a bit of an understatement to say that it's hard for a hockey team to rally back from a 3-0 hole. A season or two ago, the San Jose Sharks struggled when they got into that position, especially early in a game. However, the Sharks did just that on Tuesday night when they notched three unanswered goals against the Winnipeg Jets, eventually pushing the tilt into overtime. That's no easy feat given that the Jets entered that game 22-1-4 when scoring the first goal.

While the Sharks did fall in OT, losing 5-4, the comeback in and of itself was something to behold. In fact, Team Teal has come from behind like that a couple times in its last stretch of 10 games. While that doesn't sound like much, it has helped the Sharks snag second place in the Pacific Division race for playoff contention. After a so-so start to their 2017-18 campaign, they have a confidence and swagger that is making them a very resilient product.

"I think there's a feeling that we're never really out of a game," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after the contest with the Jets. "You know that, as long as there's time on the clock, that we can still get back in the game."

Where did this resiliency come from?

DeBoer pointed to the character in the dressing room — all the bearded veterans who make up the team's identity. But you have to admit, generating more offense than the team was early in the season doesn't hurt. The Sharks have gone from the same players scoring two or fewer goals every game to new faces helping create scoring chances. Forward Timo Meier, for example, has scored three goals in his past four games with a point in four straight. Over the first half of the season, he's gone from "one of the young guys who needs to step up" to a top-line spot with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Improved special teams certainly doesn't hurt, either. San Jose's power play struggled for a couple seasons, even back in 2016 when the squad made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. At the halfway point of the season, the Sharks have the fifth best power play in the league and the fifth best penalty kill to go along with it.

You also can't give out kudos without tipping your cap to Aaron Dell. The 28-year-old backup goalkeeper has been thrust into a starting roll for Team Teal after regular starter Martin Jones went down with an undisclosed lower-body injury. Just a couple weeks ago, Dell's impressive season had many thinking he was a trade target. Now, he's grinding through three games in four nights and giving the Sharks the best chance to win. Even after giving up three goals to the Jets on Tuesday night, he held through a couple furious flurries to keep the game from getting out of hand.

So question remains: How far can the the Sharks stretch this pattern of resiliency? Thornton left Tuesday night's contest with a leg injury, and he will reportedly be out "several weeks." Losing the bearded vet is definitely a kick in the teeth, but captain Joe Pavelski remains confident that San Jose can continue to rally, even without Jumbo Joe: "We have a much better chance with him in the lineup, definitely," he said. "But if he's going to miss a little bit of time, someone's going to have to step up."

A lot of "someones" have stepped up of late, which is exactly how the Sharks have climbed up the standings. They'll need that even more as the trade deadline approaches and the sprint toward the postseason kick into high gear.

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Chelena Goldman grew up on a street where the boys played street hockey and yelling at baseball and football over the radio was a standard -- making life as a sports geek the perfect fit. She believes in dominance on the blue line, good red wine, and the theory that you can never be too overdressed for any occasion. You can find her gabbing away on Twitter at @ChelenaGoldman.

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QUIZ: Name every NHL player since 1998-99 to score 100 points in a season

Since the 1998-99 NHL season, 36 players have tallied 100 or more points in a season. How many can you name in six minutes?

Good luck!

CLUE: SEASON / TEAM / POINTS

Score:
0/36
Time:
6:00
16-17 / EDM / 100
Connor McDavid
15-16 / CHI / 106
Patrick Kane
13-14 / PIT / 104
Sidney Crosby
11-12 / PIT / 109
Evgeni Malkin
10-11 / VAN / 104
Daniel Sedin
09-10 / VAN / 112
Henrik Sedin
09-10 / PIT / 109
Sidney Crosby
09-10 / WAS / 109
Alexander Ovechkin
09-10 / WAS / 101
Nicklas Backstrom
08-09 / PIT / 113
Evgeni Malkin
08-09 / WAS / 110
Alexander Ovechkin
08-09 / PIT / 103
Sidney Crosby
07-08 / WAS / 112
Alexander Ovechkin
07-08 / PIT / 106
Evgeni Malkin
06-07 / PIT / 120
Sidney Crosby
06-07 / SJ / 114
Joe Thornton
06-07 / TB / 108
Vincent Lecavalier
06-07 / OTT / 105
Dany Heatley
06-07 / TB / 102
Martin St. Louis
06-07 / COL / 100
Joe Sakic
06-07 / ATL / 100
Marian Hossa
05-06 / 2TM / 125
Joe Thornton
05-06 / NYR / 123
Jaromir Jagr
05-06 / WAS / 106
Alexander Ovechkin
05-06 / OTT / 103
Daniel Alfredsson
05-06 / OTT / 103
Dany Heatley
05-06 / PIT / 102
Sidney Crosby
05-06 / CAR / 100
Eric Staal
02-03 / COL / 106
Peter Forsberg
02-03 / VAN / 104
Markus Naslund
02-03 / BOS / 101
Joe Thornton
00-01 / PIT / 121
Jaromir Jagr
00-01 / COL / 118
Joe Sakic
98-99 / PIT / 127
Jaromir Jagr
98-99 / ANA / 107
Teemu Selanne
98-99 / ANA / 101
Paul Kariya
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