Sharks -- All-Star break comparison: 2012 vs. 2011

January 26, 2012, 12:47 am
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At the NHL All-Star break last season, the Sharks had played 50 games, sported a record of 25-19-6 for 56 points, sat in fourth place in the Pacific Division, and were tied for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.

This year, the Sharks enter the All-Star break having played 47 games, boast a record of 27-14-6 for 60 points, lead the Pacific Division, and sit in third place.

What's different about this year? Let's take a deeper look at the stats.
Amazingly enough, through 50 contests a season ago the Sharks averaged both 2.72 goals per game, and 2.72 goals allowed per game. Those figures ranked 15th and 18th in the NHL, respectively.

This year the Sharks' scoring output has slipped marginally to 2.66 goals per game, which is good for 13th among the 30 teams.

If the Sharks have four more points at the All-Star break this year compared to last year, and have played three fewer games, it must mean that Antti Niemi and the defense have improved, right?

Ding ding ding.

The Sharks are currently sixth in the NHL, allowing just 2.28 goals per game.

In 37 starts, Niemi is 21-10-5 (he was pulled early once) with a 2.30 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage.

Last season, he didn't fare so well before the All-Star break, compiling a 13-3-3 record, with a 2.69 goals against average, and a .912 save percentage in just 29 games (Remember -- the season prior Niemi helped lead the Blackhawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and aside from the fact was learning a new system in San Jose, he was probably a little worn out with the title run extending into June).

Niemi's backup, Thomas Greiss, has arguably been even better. In 11 games, he is 6-4-1 with a 1.98 goals against average, and a .927 save percentage.

It's no wonder the Sharks reportedly placed Antero Niittymaki on waivers earlier today.

But what about the key guys who score the goals and play defense?

- Joe Thornton: 8 goals, 30 assists, 38 points (44)
- Patrick Marleau: 17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points (36)
- Logan Couture: 21 goals, 15 assists, 36 points, All-Star (33)
- Joe Pavelski: 17 goals, 17 assists, 34 points (31)
- Dan Boyle: 4 goals, 25 assists, 29 points (32)
- Ryane Clowe: 9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points (38)
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points (10)
- Brent Burns: 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points (31 -- with Minnesota)
- Michal Handzus: 3 goals, 14 assists, 17 points (19)
- Jamie McGinn: 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points (6 points)
- Martin Havlat: 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points, missed 21 games (44 -- with Minnesota)
(points at All-Star break last season)

From a pure numbers standpoint, the Sharks' two big acquisitions in the offseason, Burns and Havlat, have clearly underperformed.

Ryane Clowe is also well below his scoring pace from a season ago, but has missed the past five games with a facial fracture.

Dan Boyle is pretty much status quo, and something tells me his numbers would be better had he not been using sticks that were an inch longer than last year's for the first 24 games of the season, or if he hadn't been playing on a broken foot the first 15-20 games.

Patrick Marleau is ahead of last year's numbers, as is Joe Pavelski. Joe Thornton and Michal Handzus are slightly below, but Jamie McGinn and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have improved significantly.

Then there's Logan Couture. The Calder Trophy runner-up from a season ago leads the Sharks with 21 goals and is the lone member who will not use the All-Star "break" as its name insinuates. Instead, he will be in Ottawa making his first All-Star appearance.

The Sharks are in a good position right now. Their first four games following the break are against teams who would not be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

However, after the Blackhawks come to town on Feb. 10, the Sharks embark on a nine-game road trip spanning 14 days.

We will know a lot about this team on Feb. 26.

But for now, get your rest guys. You're going to need it.

Except you, Logan.

Drew Shiller is a Web Producer at You can follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller