Oh say can you see the Sharks
Try to keep a straight face and tell me that the Sharks first post-Olympics tilt against the Flyers wasn’t as entertaining as they come.
Go ahead. Try it.
It’s downright impossible to deny how engaging Team Teal was to watch Thursday night as they did damage in Philadelphia.
Not just because they emerged as an offensive juggernaut in their 7-3 victory, but because of how many storylines emerged from those sixty minutes.
Joe Pavelski, probably still angry with Team USA’s fate in the 2014 Winter Games, tallied his second hat trick of the season and of his career.
Then Logan Couture, probably still angry for not making Team Canada, scored twice in his first game back off injured reserve since January.
And Raffi Torres, probably still angry that he was only playing his first game of the 2013-2014 campaign, put the Sharks on the board twice including the goal at 4:25 in the opening frame to give San Jose an early 1-0 lead.
But it wasn’t just the guys with chips on their shoulders that made the night a spectacle.
San Jose looked refreshed and energized after the long break, notching their second seven-plus goal game of the season, and keeping the Flyers from climbing up the scoreboard with them.
Now: What do the Sharks have to do to harness that success headed into March hockey, and potentially catch up to the Ducks in the division before heading into the après-season?
As long as they stay healthy, there’s no reason they can’t sneak up on Anaheim in the standings, and continue to compete into the playoffs.
After finally succumbing to a rigorous schedule and feeling the effects of having so many players sidelined with injuries, San Jose needed that Olympic break. They in turn showed positive results from having the time off.
But the Sharks now play their next 22 games in just over 40 days headed down the regular season stretch.
After starting this post-Sochi portion of 2014 on the road, San Jose will play four games in eight days at home — playing every other night, much like they did before the break — before hitting the road again. And that’s only the beginning of March.
While fatigue will be expected with such a rigorous schedule, it is still paramount for them to maintain a fast and smart level of play. Of course, having healthier team will definitely help that.
In fact, San Jose’s roster is probably the healthiest it has been all season. Take away the loss of Tomas Hertl up top, the Sharks have their key pieces suiting up to play.
Having a top-scorer in Couture and a hard-hitter in Torres back on the ice and healthy is important in the team’s push towards playoff hockey.
A healthier crop of players will come the shuffling of lines, which will in turn give the Sharks’ offense more depth.
Even though Pavelski has played incredibly well on that top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the return of Couture and Torres — and Adam Burish before the break, even — can allow No. 8 to go back to centering the third line.
And, as the latter part of the 2013 season demonstrated, the Sharks’ perform their very best when they have the option of rolling out four strong lines.
So what if the Sharks don’t score seven or more goals a game for the rest of the regular season.
In all honesty, it’s very likely that they won’t.
If they can stay healthy, there’s no reason why they can’t harness some of the momentum they had in Philadelphia as they make a push past Anaheim in the standings and into the playoffs.