After a 4-2 defeat to the Vancouver Canucks at home, the San Jose Sharks find themselves losers of four straight. Although the Sharks have received points in three of those contests, they have not played well. They’ve hurt themselves with ill advised penalties, slow starts, and inconsistent play. Against the lowly Buffalo Sabres, the Sharks waited until they were down by two goals in the third period to start playing hard. It was even worse of a showing against the Canucks. The Sharks only had 24 shots on goal and were sloppy on the power play, going 0-3. In the past, Antti Niemi has bailed the Sharks out, but as of late he has been part of the problem. After posting a shutout in Montreal, Niemi has allowed 14 goals in his past four starts, which all resulted in losses. This may be attributable to fatigue, or poor defensive play in-front of him, but he has definitely allowed a few soft goals as of late.
It’s safe to say that this four game skid marks the low point in the Sharks season so far. This “low” point however, still has them ranked third in the NHL, with 24 points. They’ve only lost in regulation twice, and have done this while fighting through injuries to two of their forwards—Brent Burns and Raffi Torres. While Torres will not be back anytime soon, Burns has been practicing with the team, and there’s optimism that he could rejoin the lineup on the Sharks five game road trip.
The injury to Burns and poor play from the forwards, have resulted in several different line combinations. Joe Thornton has played with Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels, James Sheppard, and Patrick Marleau. Logan Couture’s line has seen Marleau, Martin Havlat, Ian Kennedy, and Matt Nieto. It’s great that Todd McLellan has the luxury of mixing and matching forwards to account for injuries, however the Sharks seem out of sync due to these different line combinations. Until Burns returns, it may be beneficial to stick with one or two sets of line combinations and give them a chance to find a rhythm together.
On the Sharks upcoming trip, look for them to play an aggressive style of hockey. Based on the Sharks recent play, it would not suit them well to play a typical road style game. Playing on the road often entails making the safe play, rather than the right one. For the Sharks, the best play is the aggressive one, and if they use their speed and size to their advantage, they could find their game this road trip. Their first chance to get back in the win column comes on Sunday in Winnipeg. The Jets find themselves with only 16 points, but they are coming off of an impressive 5-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Friday night. They are playing better than their record shows, and if the Sharks want to come away with a win, they need to compete for an entire 60 minutes.