After four straight losses while being out-scored a collective 10-4, are we seeing a team that has not only taken its foot off the gas pedal, but climbed into the backseat? Or is this simply the same Sharks team we see near the end of almost every season, once their playoff berth is virtually assured?
Brent Burns has noticeably cooled as teams are shutting down his lanes, newly acquired Jannik Hansen is injured and on the shelf, Jumbo Joe isn’t controlling puck possession in the offensive zone, Donskoi is back to getting pushed off the puck and down to the ice every time he tries to skate around an opponent, Joel Ward is invisible, and even Michael Haley’s fisticuffs seem impotent. Do I think Coach DeBoer is concerned? Absolutely.
And given that last season’s final 20 games saw a three-game skid, nothing worse, and an overall record well above .500, perhaps we do have reason to be concerned. Unless, that is, we’re really just seeing a Sharks team dialing it back a bit, keeping themselves healthy and moderately paced in deliberate anticipation of a deep cup run.
But if that's the case, it's a dangerous tack, as we all know -- to assume the ability to stoke the engine on command when it's go-time. We've all seen teams attempt this only to find themselves looking at the departing caboose of a round-one train that just ran them over.
The next couple games should provide a better clue to what we’re seeing. Thanks for reading and don’t trip over the blue line as you enter the zone.