Sharks taking old-school road to top

SAN JOSE ­­>> Defense wins championships, a time-tested cliché the Sharks are buying into this season.

Throughout most of the last decade, the identity of Sharks hockey has been defined by a highly-skilled offense and a top-five power play. But as the team’s scoring woes stretch toward the season’s midway point, the Sharks are getting the job done with stingy defense and spectacular goaltending, a formula that has catapulted them into first place in Pacific Division with seven wins in their last eight games.

Coach Pete DeBoer acknowledges he subscribes to the defense-wins-championships cliché, but he also says it’s “an oversimplification.”

“You want to defend and play fast and create” he added. “For me, the best defense is offensive zone time and pressure on the other team, so it’s not a New Jersey Devils 1995 defense we’re talking about.”

Although the Sharks aren’t exactly playing the low risk, neutral-zone trapping style of game that propelled Lou Lamoriello’s Devils to three Stanley Cups in between 1995 and 2003, they’ve posted a 22-12-1 record through 35 games by following a similar approach.

At this point, the Sharks are actually producing less offense relative to the rest of the league than the 1994-95 Devils. The Sharks are currently ranked 21st in scoring (2.51 goals per game), 20th in five-on-five goals (58) and 20th on the power play (16.4 percent). They’re also the only team in the NHL that hasn’t scored more…

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