Before getting into a gameday preview, I'll voice my thoughts on the current slide to catch up.
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After starting the season 8-0-1, the Sharks have spent their last 8 games polishing up a record of 2-2-4, hardly impressive, but is there cause for concern?
To put it simply, no, there isn't.
Out of the current 8-game stretch there isn't one game that concerns me. Sure, it's disappointing to lose to the dreadful Buffalo Sabres and the lowly Winnipeg Jets, but look at the scores. The Sharks netted 4 goals in each of those games and, with the Sharks system, that's normally a win. Even bad teams have to win sometimes.
The Sharks have averaged 2.88 goals per game over the current slide, well below the 4.44 they were averaging over the first nine games. Realistically, it would be ignorant to assume the Sharks could have continued that production. That 2.88 goals per game average would set them up for a 237 goal total over 82 games, still an increase from last year.
Some people would have you believe that Brent Burns being injured is the sole reason for the Sharks skid right now. Those people would be misinformed. This isn't a team built around Brent Burns. Yes, the Sharks could use Burns right now, but he isn't the reason they have lost 5 in a row. Dan Boyle's name comes up when talking injuries for the Sharks, but the Sharks are better off with Boyle off the ice, even though he's been productive in his return from injury. San Jose's GF/60 with Boyle off the ice is the highest out of any player at 5.28. The Sharks also allow less goals while Boyle is riding the pine.
The Sharks thrive off of low scoring, close, hockey games where the defense can take over and get the job done. Right now the defensive side, goaltender included, is struggling to keep the games low, but I'd garner a bet that it's just a phase. Every team faces bad stretches and, luckily, the Sharks have been able to salvage a point in four of their five previous games in which they've lost. If you remember the hot start the Sharks got off to they were piling up the goals but the other teams were having trouble finding the twine behind the Sharks tenders. That is a trend that needs to resurface.
The goals are still coming and the wins will follow shortly. Sharks fans need not worry about the current slide. The veteran locker room will guide this team back on track, and it starts tonight in Calgary. It's up to Thornton and Marleau to settle this team down and play simple. There can be a sense of panic in a slide like this one and a feeling that they need to pinch and score as much as possible. It's the leadership's role to quell those thoughts and continue to play the coach's system to return to the success they've previously known.
G18 San Jose @ Calgary
Tonight's game features two teams that would love nothing more than to right the ship against a divisional foe. The Sharks (4-2-4) and Flames (3-7) have struggled in their last 10 as we approach the quarter mark of the season.
The Sharks will look to feed off a leaky net as they take a high powered offense (3rd in GF) into the Saddledome against a team who has allowed 3.53 goals per game to their opponents. Special teams will be key for San Jose as they enter with the 9th best Powerplay in the league, despite having seen a sharp decline in PP production over the last few games.
San Jose needs to get back to simple Shark hockey tonight, capitalizing on man advantages and playing sound defensive hockey. Forwards Brent Burns, Adam Burish and Raffi Torres are still out with injuries, but Burns could return in time for the final game of the 5-game road swing in Chicago on Sunday.
Powerplay: SJ (9th) CGY (23rd)
Penalty Kill: SJ (4th) CGY (28th)
Goals For: SJ (3rd) CGY (19th)
Goals Against: SJ (7th) CGY (27th)
The game kicks off at 9pmET time, thanks for reading!
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