Despite boasting a ton of firepower, the San Jose Sharks sit 21st in the league averaging just 2.40 goals-for per game.
Yet they lead the Pacific Division by three points. There is little to no reason to press the panic button because of the slow scoring start.
Defensively speaking, the Sharks lead the league with an incredibly stingy 2.04 goals-against per game.
While they aren't scoring, they lead the league in puck possession in close situations with a 55% CORSI.
Opponents have a difficult time scoring against San Jose because they simply don't have the puck that much. When they do have possession, they have to go through the likes of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns and David Schlemko on defense. These three defenders are all playing terrific hockey all on separate pairs.
If opponents do manage to get the better of those defenders, they then have to deal with Martin Jones and his .924 save percentage.
The Sharks may not be scoring, but all the numbers behind the scenes point to having a very successful season with the goals bound to come. So please, Sharks fans, stop using Joe Thornton and Mikkel Boedker as your whipping boys for the struggling offense.
Thornton & Boedker Struggling Early Was Predictable
Before the season started, it was easy to predict Thornton and Boekder to be two of the bigger Sharks names to get off to slow starts.
Thornton is coming off by far the shortest offseason of his career and is now 37-freaking-years old for crying out loud. Going to the Stanley Cup final last year and then coming back to play in the World Cup in September? That's a tremendous amount of tred coming off Thornton's tires over the last 12 months.
So far this season, the Sharks have had a hefty road schedule with their two longest road trips of the season already in the books. Yes, just 15 points and no real goals in 25 games is a bit disappointing in terms of what we have come to expect from Thornton. However, during what was arguably the best season of his career last year (82 points in 82 games), he started out with the exact same 15 points in his first 25 games. Thornton is due a hot streak once he gets a bit of time here to rest up the legs. The Sharks currently are on a four full-day break before their next game and later this month they will have a few days off for Christmas. In February they will also get the mandated bye-week as part of the new CBA. Thornton probably won't reach 82 in 82 again this season, but let's be patient with him, 65-70 points is still well within reason with the hard part of the travel schedule in the rear view mirror.
Believe in Boedker
The Danish winger is obviously not living up to his usual standards after signing a four-year $16 million contract this offseason as a free agent. With just four points in 25 games, he is far below his usual 40-50 point standard over 82 games. However, Boedker deserves far more patience than he has gotten thus far in his first season as a Shark.
Critics will point to Boedker's lack of an inside game and compare him to one of the least-liked forwards in Sharks history, Martin Havlat. While these two do play a similar perimeter game, the comparison is unfair. Havlat was one of the most injury prone forwards in the league and was playing in his early thirties while in San Jose. His patented speed of his early years was long gone by the time he became a Shark. Boedker meanwhile, is still just 26-years old and remains one of the fastest skaters in the league. Even if he isn't scoring, that speed will help counter the Pittsburgh Penguins in a potential Stanley Cup final rematch.
Furthermore, some critics will say Boedker should have adjusted to DeBoer's system by now because he played under him during junior. This is just plain silly as Boedker played just one season for DeBoer in junior almost 10 years ago. Some terminology likely carried over, but Boedker played the majority of his first eight years in Arizona under Dave Tippett. The Coyotes play a very particular style, often-boring style, especially when holding a lead. The adjustment for Boedker switching over to a attacking, puck-possesion type team in San Jose is going to take some time. And lest we forget, Boedker missed out on the majority of training camp playing for Team Europe in the World Cup. Last season it took until Christmas for the Sharks to hit their stride learning DeBoer's system and they had a full training camp.
Boedker deserves at least 2-3 more weeks, if not longer, before being fairly judged for a lack of offensive production. Even without scoring, he has helped on the penalty kill, where the Sharks rank a solid 11th overall. It is also difficult to recall any goal against that was a direct result of a terrible giveaway by No.89. Certainly the Sharks would hope to see Boedker bring his patented power-play value, but that is also unfair to judge at this point. Surprisingly, with all the skill the Sharks boast, they have not been drawing very many power plays this season. Boedker has been playing on the second unit, and that group has not seen much ice time yet. Even with all their puck possession, the Sharks have drawn just the 18th most penalties in the league.
Patience, Patience, Patience
The Sharks have won six-of-their-past-seven games to build a three-point lead in their division despite a terrible road-heavy schedule through the first two months of the season. They are winning games with a number of players not producing to expectations. Law of averages tells us these slumps are not going to continue all season. Thornton and Boedker, as well as guys like Joonas Donskoi, Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau are bound to increase their scoring paces as the year goes along. There is little reason to fret if you are a sharks fan. The team is winning while the offense struggles. That defensive foundation isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and the offense is bound to start lighting it up. The future is bright for the 2016-17 Sharks.