Although the Sharks continued to improve from their shutout against Buffalo three games ago, they continued their standings tailspin tonight against the rival Anaheim Ducks. Ultimately, the Sharks game was an exercise in futility.
The Sharks out-chanced the Ducks by a final tally of 22-8, but Jonas Hiller rekindled his 2009 Playoff performance, stymying San Jose in similar fashion. The Sharks have now been shut-out seven times just a little more than half way through the season, a disturbing trend for a team with so much offensive firepower on paper.
Offense was never supposed to be a problem with this team; the lack of defensive stalwarts was well documented, as well as the uncertainty in goal. However, in this recent four game losing streak, the Sharks are shooting at just 3%. We thought the Sharks would be winning 4-3, 6-5. Losing 1-0 was never part of the game plan.
"Frustrating" was a word used often in the Sharks post-game interviews, but I'm assuming that the team was a bit more vulgar in word choice in their private dressing room. However, aside from the frustration, the Sharks seemed more positive than they did on the heels of the loss against Buffalo. They deserved to win tonight's game.
That matters little on the scoreboard, which reads 1-0 Anaheim regardless of which team deserved to walk away with the win.
We could walk through the game on a play by play basis, but honestly, it boiled down to a few simple points. Niemi and Hiller played fantastic in net. The Sharks had the chances, but just couldn't pound one in. Simple as that.
Jamie Baker made a good point on the Comcast Sports Net post-game show. Perhaps adversity, fighting for their playoff lives, will be a good thing for this team. Under McLellan, the Sharks have always known they were headed to the playoffs. This season, with the Western Conference so tight and the team struggling, the players may have to become accustomed to a playoff style of hockey earlier than they're used to. It worked for Philadelphia last year.
As has been said, there have been positives. Marleau looks better, and I though Heatley looked good next to Clowe and Couture. The team will score again, and when they do, I expect that they'll score in bunches. Negatively, the transition game could improve, and strength in the defensive zone could be better. Those are things I'm not sure are going to happen organically.
Every person in the organization is going to have to look themselves in the mirror tomorrow morning. Move past the doubt, and realize what they are capable of. No matter what their role, they're going to have to do a better job if this team is going to improve.