San Jose Sharks: Critical road trip will determine the season

The San Jose Sharks may have finally found an identity upon concluding a lackluster homestand with a crucial road trip that could ultimately decide their fate in hopes of making a push for the playoffs.

The Bob Boughner era did not get off to a promising start after the San Jose Sharks fired Peter DeBoer in efforts to jumpstart the team. Bad habits under DeBoer followed under Boughner as the Sharks quickly fell and into the basement of the Pacific Division standings.

A dismal homestand showed the glaring weaknesses of the Sharks with an emphasis on only playing 40 minutes of hockey. The third period became the Achilles heel for San Jose, making a costly mistake with the result of the opponent cashing in on the miscue.

Recent games against Arizona, St. Louis, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles illustrate the lagging effort made in the third period. In the first two periods, the Sharks proved to be the better team and got prime opportunities to come away with points.

Turnovers in the defensive end and before entering the offensive zone became the backbreakers in the third period. The Sharks staked a 2-0 lead against the Kings, only to see a costly pass get intercepted by a Kings’ player in the defensive zone and buried in the net to even the score late in the frame.

San Jose would eventually fall in overtime.

From the beginning of the season, the Sharks came nowhere near being a well-tuned oil machine with one glaring weakness pave the way for another shortfall to come after fixing the first issue. From goaltending to a commitment to defense in the third period, the Sharks are finding ways to lose hockey games.

Remarkably, the Sharks still have the best penalty kill in the league. Unfortunately, the same cannot be about the horrific power play sitting at the bottom amongst clubs.

The man advantage never got rolling with DeBoer and is continuing under Boughner. Special teams hit rock bottom after not converting on a 6-on-3 against the Coyotes for about 50 seconds.

Plenty of faults to go all around on the roster with nobody stepping up to find solutions. After the overtime loss to the lowly Kings, players not living up to expectations were supposedly going to be a healthy scratch the next game.

After a meeting with the coaches, Boughner chose to pencil the same lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. A 6-1 victory by the Sharks gave some hope for optimism; the team found an answer to their ailment and will trend in the right direction.

Timo Meier rose to the occasion with his first career hat trick. His goals tied him with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane for the team lead with 14 apiece.

Meier will continue to be under the microscope given his production is not on the same level from players drafted before and after him in his draft year.

Logan Couture is the only other player with double-digit goals on the year with 12 for the Sharks. The first-year captain is undoubtedly having a tough time keeping his team focused and getting on the scoresheet.

With the decade coming to an end, San Jose concludes 2019 with a tilt against Detroit in the Motor City. The Sharks undoubtedly want to move on from December and round into form from a successful month in November.

Pittsburgh, Columbus, Washington, and St. Louis await San Jose after New Year’s Eve contest with Detroit. For the Sharks to make a serious run at the postseason, a few things must change immediately.

First, the Sharks could use the goaltending of Martin Jones, which gave him honors of being the NHL third star in November before the wheels came off.

Jones is the answer between the pipes and must get better play in front of him. Aaron Dell is decent but is not ready to be a starter and has not proven himself.

Second, the San Jose Sharks’ management should explore the trade market and make inquiries.

The team lack forward depth and the organization contains no impact prospects ready to make the jump into the NHL. Brent Burns is worth dangling to teams in the playoff hunt and want to shore up the defensive pairings.

Without a first-round pick for the upcoming draft due to recent trades to mortgage the future, getting a pick could benefit the Sharks in the long haul. The Sharks may be a better team without Burns at this point in the campaign.

Lastly, play a full 60 minutes of hockey on a nightly basis. The Sharks gave a glimpse of the team they can be with a tight, physical style that rattled the Flyers.

A slight advantage came in favor of the Sharks, given the Flyers were playing their first game since the holiday break.

Next: San Jose Sharks: Radim Simek's impact continues to be felt

No more excuses, the San Jose Sharks must get their act together to salvage the season. With all the talent on the roster, reasons to sit at the bottom of the standings are inexcusable.

The next five games will dictate the remaining months.

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