Both the Sharks and Canucks are looking to begin the season on a high note, looking for a win that could possibly set their path to their first Stanley Cup. The Canucks will open their first regular-season game with a new coach, John Tortella, who was released from the New York Rangers last season after a disappointed playoff run. Meanwhile, San Jose is hoping to continue their development to a faster-paced, more physical team that showed up late last season with the signing of Raffi Torres. Unfortunately, they will have to try to continue that pace without Torres, who is sidelined for at least three (and up to five) months with ACL surgery.
The Sharks come into the season with great talents, both young and veteran, and have a Vezina finalist in Antti Niemi. They vastly improved their penalty kill unit last year, but have one poor quality that needs to be corrected this season: even- strength play.
Last season, most of San Jose's goals were scored off power plays with only three other teams finishing with fewer even-strength goals. Coach Scott McLellan was blunt this week when he said the team needs to stop getting "cute" and taking advantage of simple scoring chances, something they again struggled with during last week's preseason games.
McLellan told CSN Bay Area,
“If we’re going to improve five-on-five scoring, those legitimate moments that arise, maybe only one or two times a night, we better be cashing in on them,”
McLellan also mentioned, albiet vaguely, that the team will focus on the role of the defensemen, faceoff wins, and choosing the right time to take a shot to help increase their even-strength goal percentage.
Do you think improving five-on-five scoring will be enough to pave the team's way to the playoffs? Or do you think losing Torres to injury before the season will affect the aggressiveness of the team? Check out the home opener tonight against the Canucks at 7pm on TSN or CSN-CA.
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