The San Jose Sharks have the best home record in the Western Conference of the National Hockey League, and they're proving it again this week, with a 2-0-1 record in their first three games back at the SAP Center after the Olympic break.
Despite dropping 3-2, overtime decision to the Carolina Hurricanes last Tuesday, the Sharks have rebounded to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference (Thursday's 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins) and the best team in league history (Saturday's 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens).
Now 24-4-4 at home, San Jose has one more home game on Tuesday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs before they take to the road again for three games in four nights back east.
Overall, the Sharks are 47-17-7 this year, and they sit four points behind the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks. San Jose is 11 points ahead of the third-place Los Angeles Kings, although the Sharks have played one more game than both Anaheim and L.A.
Tuesday's loss to Carolina was disappointing in the fact San Jose was outplayed in the overtime period. The Hurricanes got four shots on goal to just one for the Sharks, and giving up with winning goal with just 42 seconds left in the overtime frame was somewhat crushing.
Perhaps San Jose was playing for the shootout, where they've had amazing success this year. The Sharks have nine wins in that situation this year, the most in the NHL for the 2013-2014 season. But the shootout doesn't exist in playoff hockey, so San Jose has to keep striving to win in regulation first -- and then put the extra effort forth in overtime.
Thursday's win over the Penguins was particularly sweet, however: first, the Sharks demonstrated a nice recovery from the Tuesday loss, and second, they trailed entering the third period, 2-1. And third, after San Jose tied up the score at 2-2 against Pittsburgh, the visitors scored just 21 seconds later to take back the lead.
These three things often get the Sharks down, but this time, they exploded in response instead. Brent Burns scored to tie the game, Joe Thornton scored to give San Jose the lead, and Burns scored again late to provide some insurance.
Usually, it's the Sharks blowing third-period leads, but this time, it was the opponent. San Jose outshot the Penguins, 47-22, including a huge 16-4 edge in the decisive third period, and it paid off this time, handsomely.
Saturday's shutout of the Canadiens may have heralded a return to form for goaltender Antti Niemi, too: he made 27 saves in notching his first shutout since winning, 2-0, Montreal back on October 26. After an ugly February where he posted an .892 save percentage, perhaps Niemi is back on track now.
After all, the Sharks are still one of the top favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup this year, despite not making any moves at the trade deadline.
Only time will tell, of course, if this is the year for San Jose.