The San Jose Sharks are the Western Conference team best known for its regular-season success and postseason struggles. While the club suffered through some mediocre goaltending and poor shooting percentages -- the prime causes of the perceived struggles -- in the first half of the season, this iteration of the Sharks is one of the strongest ever assembled.
The Sharks' numbers, both even strength and on the power play, have been top-notch throughout the year. For instance, San Jose ended the season with the most shots on net in the league (34.5 per game) and the best shot differential (plus-5.6 per game). That's a huge leap over its per game differential from last season (plus-0.3), the season they won the Presidents' Trophy and went to the Western Conference finals. They were also the fourth-best team in the league at generating shots at five-on-five (32.7 shots per 60 minutes) and were by far the best at five-on-four (72.6/60). To put that latter number in context, Anaheim came in a distant second behind the Sharks with 59.4 shots per 60 minutes.
San Jose's ability to produce an extremely high shot volume and solid shot differentials is almost entirely derived from its excellent forward depth. While the Sharks have boasted an intimidating top-end ever since Joe Thornton arrived, the impressive development of home-grown picks like Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi, from merely supporting characters to high-end forwards, has resulted in a formidable collection of guys beyond big-money players Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley.
The locus of the Sharks' impressive supporting depth is Pavelski. The former seventh-round pick has become one of the very best two-way centers in the NHL. While Thornton et al are still reserved for mostly offensive duties, Pavelski gets deployed in a variety of situations. For example, Pavelski's ratio of offensive zone to defensive zone faceoffs was the second-lowest among regular skaters on the team (44.5 percent), meaning he performed more of a shutdown role on many nights.