The Sharks are in the Western Conference Final for first time since 2011 thanks to a number of key contributors — Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Martin Jones — but there’s one guy that’s arguably had the biggest impact of ’em all:
San Jose’s captain has been brilliant this spring. He leads the playoffs in goals, with nine, and his three game-winners has him tied with Blues captain David Backes for most among postseason skaters.
You’ll notice the focused on goal totals in describing Pavelski’s impact. And for good reason. Finding the back of the net has sort of become Pavelski’s calling card.
The 31-year-old — a seventh-round pick back in 2003 — has emerged as one of the NHL’s premier marksmen over the last three seasons:
Most goals since 2013
Alex Ovechkin, 154
Joe Pavelski, 116
Jamie Benn, 110
Max Pacioretty, 106
Sidney Crosby, 100
So yeah, of the five active NHLers that’ve scored at least 100 goals over the last three years, Pavelski is No. 2 behind Ovechkin — considered by many to be one of the greatest snipers in NHL history.
The big difference between Pavelski and his counterparts is how the goals are scored. Pavelski’s generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, well off the measurables of Ovechkin (6-3, 239), Benn (6-2, 210) and Pacioretty (6-2, 213).
And Pavelski doesn’t have Crosby’s total package of skill, speed and vision. (To be fair, nobody does.)
Pavelski’s strength is his hockey IQ. The word “cerebral” is often used in explaining why he’s found so much success, and turned into such an effective scorer.
“I’d say he’s about as smart a hockey player as they come,” Preds forward Craig Smith said, per the San Jose Mercury News.
“He’s such a student of the game.”
Pavelski’s studies will continue on Thursday night, when he and the Sharks host the Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. You can catch the game on NBCSN, at 9 p.m. ET.