19-7-7, 45 points
18-11-2, 28 points
1st in Western Conference
7th in Western Conference
In the Sharks last seven games, they've been to the shootout three times. Now, we can bitch and moan about the shootout as much as we want, but fact of the matter is that it's a part of the game. No if's and's or but's about it. It's unavoidable.
What should have been avoidable, though, is going to the shootout. The fact that the Sharks have led late in the third period in both of the shootout losses is troubling. Aside from the miraculous comeback in Edmonton, the Sharks have shat the bed twice and had to settle the score in the crapshoot. Blech. (I can also bitch because I was at the Tank live earlier this year to watch the Sharks do practically the same thing against the Stars. Deja vu... terrible feeling, terrible TV show, terrible movie.)
Like Plank said yesterday, it is really to early to start to worry about the team. Every squad hits a lull here or there, it's just what happens in an 82 game season. But ever since that stomping against Chicago on November 27th, the Sharks just haven't looked the same. Before, they were playing like they knew they were the best team in the NHL. When the Blackhawks hung seven on them, well, that was a blow to the ego.
The Sharks will get their swagger back, but it's going to take some hard work and improved skating to do that. In the last two games, the Sharks have taken two hooking penalties and three tripping penalties. That's more than two penalties per game stemming from a lack of hustle. You just can't have that. In addition to those five calls, the Sharks have been shorthanded five more time, and the Kings and Stars happily cashed in at a clip of 30%. In that same span, San Jose is one for nine with the man advantage.
Two poor games does not a season make, but I haven't been happy with what I've seen the last week or so. The Sharks need to realize that it's up to them to force the opposition to play their game for 60 minutes. They played well in the first 20 last night, and then let the Stars dictate the game. From here on out, it should be an end to end battle.
Last night wasn't all bad though. We got our first look at Jay Leach, who in my opinion, looked like a solid pickup for a team in need of defense. He shouldn't be a top pairing guy if Murray is healthy (Murray shouldn't either, but that's another story), but I thought that he played well, facilitated the breakout, and adjusted quickly to the Sharks game plan. He was much better than Huskins last night, and I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Leach get some starts over Ken in the coming weeks. That won't make us any better on the offensive side, but he looked good doing what we needed him to do: make some hits, don't make mistakes, and don't slow the team down. He's not the end all be all fix on the team, but he could be a nice surprise going forward.
Thank God the Sharks are on the road again, since that's the only place they seem to win games as of late. I have to be honest... I never thought December (a month in which we play four games on the road) would the month where we would have the most trouble thus far. I guess that's why I'm laying in bed eating a hot pocket instead of sitting next to Brett Hedican. Oh, to be Brodie Braz... never mind, I think I'll just stick to my hot pocket.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-3. Goals by Setoguchi (2), McGinn, and Marleau. Thomas Greiss makes some erratic movements either on the bench or between the pipes. Shane Doan scores a goal, celebrates, then wonders if selling his soul for special powers against the Sharks was worth it.