31-19-7, 69 points
17-35-7, 41 points
3rd in Western Conference
16th in Western Conference
Tough test for the...
Big game tonight with...
The perfect slump-buster.
Granted, the Sharks aren't the best of the best right now, but they're still sitting in third in the West... precarious as that spot might be. The Phoenix Coyotes are hot on their tails, just two points behind after going 8-1-1 in their last ten. However, the Sharks do still hold two games in hand on Phoenix (and Los Angeles, who can't score a goal to save their lives), and the current streaks that both San Jose and Phoenix are on are unlikely to continue for much longer.
While I do admit that Phoenix is a better team than I originally gave them credit for (they looked on the fast track to a league-last finish after they lost 6-3 against the Sharks in San Jose's home opener), assuming that they'll continue to earn points in 90% of their games is ridiculous. And even if you're the most pessimistic of Sharks fans, assuming that the Sharks will continue to drop games after playing like an very good team much of the season is unrealistic as well.
Probabilities aside, though, the Sharks need to actually start grabbing points for my optimism make me sound less like a Pollyanna. A Tuesday afternoon match against Columbus gives San Jose a fantastic opportunity to do that.
Columbus is a really bad team, but that doesn't mean that they don't play well from time to time - they pushed the Rangers to overtime two nights ago, and they beat the St. Louis team which gave the Sharks so much trouble at the onset of this road trip. Despite these occasional outbursts of okayness, the Sharks haven't had any issue dispatching the Jackets. Three games in January, three wins, one by a 6-0 score.
But the Sharks have had issues with other teams on this road-trip, and it didn't matter if they were great, decent or bad. So, there is reason for concern, and the Sharks mounting injuries don't quell that concern too much. Outside of players recovering, I agree that there is definitely some room for improvement, and every game leading up to the trade deadline carries that little bit of of a question if there is something that Doug Wilson can do to make this team a world-beating squad.
There are changes that could, and probably will, be made. But the success and failures of this team will rest with the current crop of players. There is no magic bullet that will make this team win every single game. Trading Thornton or Marleau won't do that. Starting Greiss over Niemi won't do that.
This team just has to bear down and win. Starts tonight.