43-15-10, 96 points
29-26-13, 71 points
1st in Western Conference
12th in Western Conference
From one big rival to another, as the Sharks continue their traditional March road trip.
As we take a look at the NHL standings, the Stars are pretty much in the same position as the Ducks are at this point of the season. The playoffs hopes are all but lost, especially after the Olympic break as Dallas went through a dismal 1-5-1 stretch, with their only win coming in a skills competition, even if against Washington. While last year the Stars fans could have comforted themselves with a thought that it was the injuries that ruined their season, this year there is no excuse-- most of their best players have stayed healthy throughout the season. It is a mediocre defense (46 more goals allowed than the Sharks and only one d-man with more than 15 points on the season), inconsistent goaltending from Marty Turco, and a hideous special teams numbers (20th PP unit in the league and 27th PK unit) that led to a largely underwhelming season by what used to be one of the better NHL franchiaes. Actually, could it be the coaching?
As this season progresses and I see these kinds of results from the Stars, I keep wondering how will the club's ownership, management and fans feel when Dave Tippett gets Jack Adams Award this June?
But let's not concern ourselves with the Stars. Needless to say, with recent lackluster performances, and strong words of general dissatisfaction from Todd McLellan and Dan Boyle, the Sharks must take two points tonight.
What matters even more is what we'll actually see on the ice. We've already touched upon the general lack of consistent scoring and a wild line shuffling of forwards that McLellan is playing with, but let's touch upon another concerning trend that's been slowly emerging over the past few weeks.
It's now been 129 days since the Sharks defense posted a shutout. Shutout stat is one those stats that does not always paint a clear picture by itself - there is a big difference between a shutout that was recorded on a night defense allowed just 18 shots on goal versus the night the defense allowed 47. While it is concerning that Nabokov, using Russian hockey terminology, has not held his goal dry for this long, in that same time span he had an impressive 11 games when he only allowed one goal. For comparison, Ilya Bryzgalov, who currently leads the league with 8 shutouts and is likely the only candidate that may upset Ryan Miller's Vezina award, has had 5 SOs since November 7, and only 4 games where he allowed just one goal.
In reality, too many factors play into a typical shutout. Sharks play risky type of hockey with defensemen often driving to the net, which often results in too many odd men rushes. Some of these rare goals are scored at the start of the game, while others come from penalties, which the Sharks, no 8 most penalized team in the league (in terms of number of penalties taken), tend to take rather easily these days. The Sharks also allow more shots on average than 21 other NHL teams.
At some point this streak of allowing goals (currently sitting at 50-games mark) will end for the Sharks. But until this happens, it is one more area that we're scratching our heads about as regular season is winding down.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-1 (with goals by Heatley, Clowe and Boyle), with the only Stars' goals coming in the first 90 seconds of the game to kill yet another potential SO ("a rusk", as the term goes in Russian) for Nabokov .