SAN JOSE -- If the Sharks' hot start seems familiar, it is. They started out 7-0 last year, then faltered for the next two months, wobbling around at 6-11-6 before a late turnaround.
But coach Todd McLellan sees this as a different team. And he likes what he is seeing from his current 6-0-1 squad more than what he saw after the first seven games last season -- even after that 4-3 shootout loss in Dallas on Thursday night.
With good reason.
"We relied on the power play last year," McLellan said. "This year we've been able to get it done 5 on 5. We relied on three or four individuals to do a lot of the scoring. This year we're getting it throughout."
This year, it's all about balance. Consider:
Those four combined for 21 goals, but only four other players had found the back of the net. And five Sharks who played in every game hadn't scored a point.
This season, Marleau is still impressive with six goals, trailing hot rookie Tomas Hertl by one for the team lead. But beyond that, 14 Sharks have scored at least one goal. And the only Sharks who haven't scored a point are those who haven't played more than two games.
This season, 24 of the Sharks' 33 goals have come at even strength with an additional one short-handed. That means the power play is providing 24 percent of the goals, a healthier ratio.
Beyond the numbers, the Sharks are playing the aggressive style of hockey that gave them an 11-2-1 record between March 25 and April 18, a continuation of general manager Doug Wilson's "reset and refresh" that transformed San Jose almost overnight.
And the Sharks are doing it without Raffi Torres, last season's spark who will be out several months recovering from knee surgery, or Adam Burish, who played well in the post-season, then required back surgery this week after an exhibition game injury. Marty Havlat also continues to be sidelined after a hip procedure.
Still, rookies Hertl and Matt Nieto, plus offseason acquisition Tyler Kennedy have filled in the gaps nicely, playing the same uptempo game that McLellan and Wilson desire.
McLellan also sees a more subtle reason why this year's seven-game record is more impressive than last year's.
"Last year, we were able to get off to that start because we were a team that had been together and we had four days of training camp and then we played," he said. "There were a number of teams that hadn't been kept together as much as we were. Now, everybody's had that lead-in time."
Players share their coach's sense that this is a stronger Sharks team.
"We're getting a lot of contributions from different players. We're playing a more aggressive game, a faster game definitely at times," Pavelski said.
If anything, as they try to get back on the winning track Saturday night against the Calgary Flames at the SAP Center, the Sharks should benefit from their problems a year ago when they quickly slid downhill to 0-3-3 after that 7-0 start.
"Yeah, I think so," Pavelski said. "We definitely don't want that. We want to be consistent."
With player buy-in, McLellan wasn't troubled by the outcome in Dallas.
"No, that loss doesn't change anything," he said after the game. "We have work to do in certain areas, but overall the point we lost tonight doesn't change where we're at."
Calgary (3-1-2) at Sharks
(6-0-1), 7 p.m. CSNCA
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