After their recent five-game losing streak there has been a little bit of panic concerning the San Jose Sharks. Their recent losing skid may seem like déjà vu to some, especially considering last season the Sharks went through a very similar streak and were not really able to recover from it. Will it be the same as last season which happened to drag the Sharks down all the way through the end of the season, or is it just a slump?
First of all, if this is a slump, then there is no reason to worry at all. After all, the Sharks picked up four points during the losing streak and were even robbed of a win against Buffalo when Tommy Wingels clearly scored, although the referee never saw it. Don’t get me wrong, a loss is a loss, but whenever you can earn points in a loss it means you are at least doing something right.
That something right for the Sharks has continued to be scoring in all facets of the game which includes at even strength and on the power play. They lead the NHL with 3.61 goals per game and were still very potent even though they were without some top guys for a while which included Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Matt Nieto. Also, add in the fact that Marty Havlat has come back and has looked great so far and there is no reason to worry about the offense anytime soon.
Part of the reason for their losses has been an inability to hold a lead in the third period. This happed three times, in fact, and rather than finishing strong as the Sharks did against the Montreal Canadiens earlier on in the season they start to get complacent and go into the dreaded prevent defense. Ironicly, unlike its name, it never works. Rather than doing what got them there, which was most likely shooting the puck and establishing their forecheck, they sit back.
Another issue, and perhaps the biggest one, that plagued the Sharks during their losing streak was their lack of quality defense and goaltending. Antti Niemi for one has not been himself of late although Alex Stalock has taken his opportunities when given them and exceled.
Still though, Niemi and the defense had allowed 18 goals during the five-game span which includes one game where he was pulled after allowing four goals in 25 minutes. Compare that to the rest of the season (11 games) where there was a combined 17 games given up. While you can make the argument that not all of those are Niemi’s fault, he has certainly not passed the ‘eye test’ as of late and has let in quite a few soft goals.
In the end, it is all just a slump, and as we saw yesterday the Sharks look to be headed in the right direction. Yes, they did have to head into overtime to do it, against the Calgary Flames no less, but were able to get it down.
Thus are the ebbs and flows of the marathon that is the NHL season, and more than likely the Sharks will hit another rough patch. The makeup of a team is not how well they do when they are winning, but rather how they do when battling adversity (a menagerie of injuries to start the season). We will truly see what he Sharks are made of in these coming couple of weeks while they attempt to work out of this slump.