While the opponent has differed night to night, lately, the story remains the same: The Sharks battle hard all night, but lose despite needing just one or two plays away from tying a game or taking a lead. This happened again last night at SAP Center when the Sharks lost 2-0 to the Minnesota Wild.
When it happens a couple times, you can write it off as a bounce just not going your way. But when it happens as often as it has, it was bound to start causing some major frustration. "You never want to lose, but it stings when you feel like you're there but you just don't execute and you don't get that goal," Chris Tierney said.
Tierney was actually one of the brightest spots of the game last night. With the lines shuffled in the first two periods, he saw time with Ward and Donskoi or Karlsson, and probably had his best game of the season - the best chances of the game probably belonged to his line, and he finished the game with a 56.4% Corsi at even strength. "Felt like I was creating a lot of chances and felt like the legs were good," Tierney said. "We had opportunities, but we just didn't execute. If one of those goes in, it might be a difference in the game."
Unfortunately, a solid night doesn't mean much when no one scores. "Moral victory games - 'Boy, he had great legs' - don't cut it for guys, we need production," head coach Peter DeBoer said. "If you're playing with us, and you're getting 15 or 18 minutes a night, we need production."
While no lines produced any points for the Sharks last night, it was the top end players who fell the hardest. There aren't many nights when Thornton, Pavelski, Marleau, and Hertl all end up underwater in even strength shot attempts. The new-look top line actually looked strong early on - Marleau and Pavelski seemed to trade chances and feed off each other in the first period, but the Wild did a good job of slowing them down as the night went on. The line shuffling seemed to help some areas, but not the top guys. After the game, DeBoer was asked if he liked what he saw with some of those new lines. "Obviously not, we didn't score," DeBoer said.
It seems like whichever line Donskoi is on becomes an amazing possession line. Numbers from HockeyStats.ca
Overall, the Sharks did have plenty of chances. They ended up leading in shot attempts 55-54 by the end of the game. But that's still a razor thin margin of error. "That was a game where one mistake was probably going to win the game," DeBoer said. "They made some mistakes we didn't capitalize on, they capitalized on one. That was the hockey game."
That one mistake appeared to be a defensive breakdown on the Burns-Martin pairing. They left Zach Parise completely alone in the crease where he was not only able to tip a shot onto Martin Jones, but also quickly pick up his own rebound untouched. "It was kind of just a slow shot to the net," Jones said. "Just kind of tipped it to himself and whacked home the rebound."
Moving ahead, what can change? The best the team can probably do is to try another new combination of lines, or just hope for the few good bounces they haven't gotten lately. "I'd like to think with a couple of the guys we have out of the lineup, we probably find a way to get one," DeBoer said. "But we don't have those guys, so the group we have has to find a way to get one." That may be all they can do until Logan Couture returns. Seemingly, the team has been a bounce away in almost every game. A healthy Couture, and the trickle down throughout the lineup from him honestly could be enough to turn the tables.
Luckily for the Sharks, the rest of the division really isn't in any better shape. Everyone (outside the Kings) have had a mediocre start. The Sharks are one point out of second place, two points ahead of last. "I think we've got to calm down a bit and realize where we're at - we're right there," Joe Pavelski said. "We have to go back to work, go back to the drawing board."