Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Stay out of the penalty box when the San Jose Sharks are on the hunt; their attack is deadly.
The Sharks are tied for the NHL lead in goals per game with 4.75 through four games, and most of their damage has been done with the man advantage.
The Colorado Avalanche became the latest team to fall prey to the Sharks in a 4-0 loss on Saturday. The Avalanche actually controlled play for the first 15 minutes of the game but a double minor penalty on Ryan O'Byrne was the equivalent of dumping chum in the water.
Patrick Marleau struck quickly with two power play goals in a span of 1:18, the first assisted by Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle and the second coming off helpers from Boyle and Joe Thornton. Thornton later added another power play goal, assisted by Ryane Clowe and Marleau.
Marleau has four consecutive two-goal games to start the season. He's the second player in NHL history to accomplish that feat. There are six teams who have that many or fewer through four games. Half of his eight goals have come on the power play. In fact, more than half of the team's goals have come with a man advantage (10 of 19).
All those goals have made starting netminder Antti Niemi a strong nightly play.
Niemi got a break Saturday after going 3-0 in his first three starts with a 2.34 GAA and 927 SV%. Those numbers jive with what Niemi has done the last two seasons as San Jose's starting goaltender, so there shouldn't be much of a regression as the season progresses.
Meanwhile, Marleau, Thornton, Pavelski, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle have all been fantasy stars once again. Marleau has three assists to go with his eight goals and 20 shots, Thornton has two goals and nine assists, Pavelski has eight assists and 14 shots and Couture has three goals, four assists and 13 shots. Boyle should once again be a top-10 fantasy defenseman. He has two goals, three assists and 12 shots. The five players have a combined plus-16 differential.
The Sharks' power-play scoring might not slow down either. San Jose finished second in the NHL in power-play percentage (21.1) last season, scoring 57 goals on 270 opportunities, and it was third with a 23.5 percent success rate the season before.
The personnel hasn't changed. Marleau, Thornton and Pavelski have all skated on San Jose's top power-play line in each of the last two seasons, with Dany Heatley joining them as the extra forward in 2010-11 and Couture stepping in as the fourth forward this year. Going back even further, the Sharks also ranked in the top five in power-play percentage in 2008-09 and 09-10, with Marleau, Thornton and Pavelski playing key roles.
So this season's early success is really a continuation of what this team has been doing for years, not a small sample size.