With a porous 1-2-3 start to December, the Sharks have had a whale of trouble finding the win column. Sure they've been picking up singles like David Duchovny before a big night on the town, but blown leads and uninspired play don't lead one to assume that those loser points can be seen as an efficacious remedy while this stretch eventually works itself out.
We'll have a quantitative look at some relevant statistics later this week. On the docket for today is just, well, whatever you want to call this. I call it the son of Jameson, and if that makes sense to you, then I consider you a dear friend.
- In general I think it's good practice to avoid falling back on the venerable criticism of "lacking effort" when examining a losing streak as it may not always apply, but if it's good enough for the Captain then I guess it's good enough for me. Whether or not we're dealing with the kickback of a heavy road schedule to start the year or a case of subconsciously resting on the laurels of that early season success, it's hard to assert and defend the notion that San Jose has come out to play for sixty minutes a night. There's been waves of good, and waves of opposing teams imposing themselves on the Sharks for extended chunks of time-- if we consider this team one of the theoretical top-dogs in the Western Conference (which we obviously do), that's not a bright spot.
- Joe Thornton is a world-class player, but his decision making with a minute remaining against Phoenix stuck out as a microcosm of the Sharks current ailments. Carrying the puck into the offensive zone he pulls up at the blueline, only to have the Phoenix defenseman do what any player worth a grain of salt would do-- pressure the puck carrier. Vulcanized rubber gets coughed up, cleared, and the Sharks don't have another chance the rest of the game. As much as the desire to hedge bets and state it's the product of a "puck-possesion" style, the fact of the matter is Thornton has to get that puck deep so the Sharks can use the extra man (Greiss was pulled around the 1:15 mark) to load up on bodies down low and win a puck battle. San Jose will never be able to emulate Detroit, at least with their current makeup of North American players. There's not nearly enough individual creativity on the roster to pull that style of play off. When the wins aren't coming you have to go back to the basics of a North-South game by chipping it in and engaging physically.
- I'm not saying San Jose is without talent-- that would be the worst idea since Stephenie Meyer began her literary career. What I am saying is that the Sharks, over an extended period of time, can't get away with making the cute play, especially when they're struggling to win hockey games. The way this team is constructed puts a heavy emphasis on the system, and they're going to live and die by that system. Cutting backdoor in the offensive zone, far-side wingers generating speed in the neutral zone, making sure the forwards are working hard to open a passing lane between the circles to receive a breakout pass in the defensive zone. With the exception of Joe Thornton (who is a non-shooting threat; keep that in mind when reading on), there's a lack of dynamic puck handling in close quarters. The only Sharks you're going to see make opposing skaters look like grocery sticks are Marleau and Boyle, and even then it's more a product of speed down the wing where the defenseman gets caught with a bad pivot. When's the last time you saw someone attempt to toe drag?
- In summation, get the fucking puck in deep.