Finish the story.
The Sharks start strong, getting an early goal from Joe Pavelski just a minute into the game. Apparently firing on all cylinders, San Jose puts shot after shot on Minnesota, controlling the play. Then Josh Harding, he of the sparkling 0.935 save percentage, gets knocked out of the game by his own player. With starter Nicklas Backstrom on the shelf with an injury, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo is forced to start his third string, rookie netminder.
That kind of opening effort usually leads to a win, and if you were playing the odds, you would have assumed that the Sharks would have earned a better fate. If not, you're probably a narcissist.
Or you've just been watching a lot of Sharks hockey lately.
The Sharks generated plenty of shots (42 to be exact), but rookie Matt Hackett dispelled all 34 that he faced in a Al Stalock-esque rookie showing. The Sharks controlled play, they had the chances. They just didn't capitalize, and that's been the story lately.
Minnesota got goals from Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, both in the first period, and those two would prove to be enough for the Wild, who lead the NHL in points. For the second time, though, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi were pretty invisible, the latter playing just under three minutes due to injury.
I would delve into a more detailed play by play, but the fact of the matter is that the rest of the game didn't have much in the form of interesting tidbits. The scoring was done in the first, and unfortunately for San Jose, the game isn't decided on the shot clock.
What's the problem with the Sharks, then, who have now lost four of five after looking like they were back to being the team that everyone hoped they would be? There are a few overarching themes from the season that rear their heads here: a power play that couldn't cash in when it needed to, a penalty kill that sputtered to a 50% success rate, and a team wide inability to connect passes and control the puck.
Positively, the shot generation total is encouraging, just as it was when the Sharks were in a similar slump to start the year. Playing as poorly as they have, they're still outshooting the best team in the league (at least from a record standpoint) at a 2-1 ratio. That ratio is even higher when you factor in blocked shots (33) and missed shots (18), or 93 total pucks directed towards the opposition's net. When this team gets right, which we saw flashes of in the first, they're going to be scary.
Still, though, they're slumping. Todd McLellan will keep switching up his lines, (we saw Winchester on line one and Marleau on line three for example), but part of me wonders if that's going to be enough to get this team scoring again. It's going to take individual efforts from here on out and some guys, as was the case with last year, need to look in the mirror and figure out how to get back to being the elite hockey players they can be.