Due to San Jose’s offense being so woeful as of late the team as a whole as struggled. Sure there were some key injuries to start the season, but those were on the back-end and the forwards have no excuse. At least the defense has been great, and the goaltending has been absolutely terrific, but when your opponents score just about two goals per game and you are not getting any wins, then we have to look at the offense. So how bad has it actually been?
First, the facts. San Jose has only recorded 21 5v5 goals this season which ranks 28th out of 30 teams in the league. The top team, Tampa Bay, is already at 46, more than double the Sharks output in that same timespan (Tampa has played one more game than San Jose).
Also, the Sharks have only scored 12 goals in their last 10 games going back to their first loss of the season against Nashville at on February 2nd. This includes the last time the Sharks scored 3+ goals in a game, which happened at home against Chicago on the 5th of February.
Just as bad has been their late-game and clutch scoring where so far this season they have only managed 11 goals in the third period and overtime (not including shootouts) and have allowed 15 against them.
The numbers are even worse when we look at the 10-game stretch of games since Nashville on February 2nd where San Jose has been outscored by a three-to-one margin. They have four goals while allowing 12 in the third period and overtime against during that timespan from February 2nd until now.
1. Entering the Offensive Zone
So far this season, it has been atrocious. Yes, it was a little bit better during the beginning of the season, but it still was not great. During this stretch of 10 games, for anyone that watches the games and knows a bit of hockey, or even those that will listen to Randy and Drew’s in-game analysis, will know what I am talking about. Basically, the Sharks need to get back to the basics. Get to the red-line, get the puck deep behind the defenseman, and chase the puck (in hockey terms, dump and chase). Too many times guys will gain the blue-line and rather than dumping the puck in will try a cross-ice or drop pass that ends up being intercepted. Then, with your team not in proper position, the opponent has a great transition opportunity the other way.
I know the Sharks a puck-possesion team, so when they gain the zone they want to hang onto it, but that is obviously not working right now. And whenver you struggle with anything what do you do? Go back to the basics.
2. Crashing the Net
Crash the net. Get to the ‘dirty areas’ like behind the net, along the boards, or in front of the net. Yea, you will take some punishment, but it will pay off in the form of goals.
How did San Jose score their only goal of the game this past Friday in Chicago? It was a simple play. Joe Thornton throws the puck at the net with Joe Pavelski crashing the net. Because he is crashing, Pavelski is in position for a deflection, rebound, and takes away a defender for his teammate, Patrick Marleau, who also crashed the net and ended up getting the rebound and putting it by the goaltender. It was a simple play and it got the job done. No need for a drop pass right at the blue line, just simple zone entry and heading to one of the ‘dirty areas’ on the ice by crashing the net.
In contrast, I would like to point out that one of the more recent times I have blatantly noticed this when Martin Havlat was an offender of this by not heading to the front of the net. Rather than crashing the net for a rebound when his linemate put the puck on net, he peeled off to the half-boards for who knows why. Newsflash Marty, you are not going to score many goals from there.
3. Sharks Are Being Outshot This Season?
For the first time in quite a few years (I used behindthenet.ca and their data only went back until the 2007-’08 season) the Shark are being outshot while at even-strength, 5v5 play. Even looking back as far as I could to the ’07-’08 seson produced no such results where San Jose has been outshot. In fact, the last time the Sharks averaged less than 30.0 shots per game at 5v5 was in that ’07-’08 season where they averaged 28.4 but were still outshooting their opponents.
This season they are averaging 27.7 shots for and 29 shots against which is not what you would like to see from a puck-possession team. Again, with the ‘keep it simple’ mantra throughout the article I would like to see one thing, more shots at net. I suspect some of these low numbers have to do with their struggles entering the offensive zone, then keeping the puck in the zone, but that cannot be all of it. Sometimes the team gets too ‘cute’ and tries to look for that extra pass rather than taking the shot when the lane opens up.
And if that shooting lane is closed? Well, rather than forcing that bad pass how about we ‘keep it simple’ and dump the puck low and get the guys to those ‘dirty areas’. Funny how that works.
Basically, it is all about keeping it simple. Simple entries, put the puck on net, then crash the net. Not too hard, yet the Sharks manage to make it look like rocket science. There is nothing more frustrating than having a clean break-out in your own end, then seeing Ryan Clowe lumber along into the offensive zone, stop a few feet inside, then proceed to get his pocket picked. Keep it simple Sharks, and everything will all be alright.
P.S. Todd McClellan, you juggle your lines more than a clown juggles bowling pins. If you could cool it a bit and let the lines actually gain some chemisty that would be great…