Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The road trip from hell (part deux) is mercifully over but it ended with yet another whimper as the Sharks' woeful offense couldn't manage an even-strength goal in the team's ninth loss in ten games.
A controversial no-goal call prevented the Sharks from drawing even with the Dallas Stars late in the third period tonight and served as a perfect microcosm of the team's monumental offensive struggles over the past ten games. Even when the Sharks score, they can't score.
Despite facing someone named Cristopher Nilstorp, who I'm assured is an actual goaltender, San Jose couldn't muster more than one measly goal all night and Patrick Marleau's tally came on a 5-on-3 power play. The Sharks have now scored just 16 goals in 12 games, only one of which has been a regulation victory. To a large extent, the dearth of scoring can be traced to the team not getting any of the breaks but they generated just 8 even-strength scoring chances tonight, maybe one of which could be classified as being of the grade-A variety.
While the power play looked more dangerous than it has in nearly a month, the penalty kill gave up two goals, as many as it had yielded over the past 14 games combined. If it isn't one thing, it's another with this team. At no point during this season, even when they were winning, have all the facets of their game clicked in unison. And speaking of facets of their game, the status of two fairly important ones are as of yet unknown: Brent Burns hobbled off in the first period never to return and Tommy Wingels sustained what appeared to be a nasty injury in a collision with Stars defenseman Philip Larsen near the end of the third.
Excuse me if I'm getting too densely analytical here, but nothing has gone right for the Sharks this month. It isn't even that they played particularly poorly in Dallas, because they really didn't, but they haven't found ways to consistently generate offense at even-strength. This was an issue last year as well that they were largely able to overcome thanks to a torrid power play. That element of their game malfunctioned weeks ago, although as mentioned showed signs of life tonight, and the result is a team that has a tough time even beating mediocre clubs dressing third-string goalies. I still think they'll turn it around when the bounces start going in their favor again but Goc help us if this continues, because Antti Niemi isn't going to be able to keep San Jose in games forever.
- I understand that these are split-second decisions but would it have really been all that difficult for Douglas Murray to recover his dropped stick prior to the Jaromir Jagr goal? He's in the lineup due to his mad penalty killing skillz (or so we're told) and it seems like that defending implement would come in handy when attempting to close off passing lanes.
- Having another puck-moving defenseman in Jason Demers in the lineup would have really come in handy when Burns went down in the first.
- Once again, the Sharks were just far too tentative when defending their own blueline. Stars wingers were allowed way too often to execute transition plays off clean zone entries.
- Thornton cup-checked Jamie Benn and the two dropped the gloves for Jumbo's second fight of this trip against a fellow All-Star center:
- I've always found it unfair to label professional athletes as having become deflated after a disheartening event but it sure seemed like that was what happened last night in Chicago following the Brandon Saad goal. It was a similar case after Couture's would-be tying goal was canceled out by the Thornton goalie interference penalty. Dallas took it to the Sharks following that moment, eventually leading to Jamie Benn's insurance marker.
- He has great puck skills and a nose for the net but now that we've gotten a chance to watch Tim Kennedy over a fair stretch of games, it should be easy to see why he's never been able to solidify a spot at the NHL level. He's atrocious in his own end and when attempting to push play through the neutral zone.
- It's amazing how the third line looks downright competent when James Sheppard is playing left wing on it. He's a much better forechecker than anyone else who has been placed on that line this season and also appears to be pretty useful at generating clean exits out of the defensive zone.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Jamie Benn
2nd Star: Cristopher Nilstorp
3rd Star: Stephane Robidas
So that ends the road trip, with the Sharks compiling a terrible 1-4-1 record. I still believe in this team and I'd like to think that belief isn't entirely unfounded. This has been an awful stretch of games to be sure but the top two lines appear to have awoken from their hibernation (except for Ryane Clowe, I guess) and configuring a decent bottom six should make the Sharks a stronger territorial team. It's the offense, both even-strength and on the power play, that remains an enormous question mark but they aren't going to keep shooting blanks forever. As frustrating as this goal drought has been to watch, and as much as they need to generate better looks than they did tonight, it will pass. The percentages will rebound as they always do but based on how disastrous this road trip has been, it remains to be seen whether Todd McLellan (or a few of the players, for that matter) will be around to witness it. Go Sharks.