For two periods this afternoon, the Sharks were the better hockey team. Seemingly in the midst of compiling one of their better efforts of the season, San Jose outshot Stanley Cup contender Chicago 26-13 through two periods of play including holding the Blackhawks to zero even-strength shots on goal in the middle frame. With their playoff hopes largely on the line in their final home game prior to a seven-game road trip, the Sharks came out to play and received contributions from all four lines en route to an exciting initial forty minutes of action that resulted in a 2-2 tie.
And then, within the span of a little over three minutes, it all fell apart. Mirco Mueller stumbled while attempting to glove down a puck in the neutral zone, allowing Brandon Saad to skate in unimpeded and score on a breakaway. Bryan Bickell would follow it up 3:35 later after Brad Richards seemingly mesmerized the Sharks' defense below the goal line. Patrick Sharp's second goal of the game on a power play late in the third sealed the win for Chicago and, potentially, sealed the Sharks' fate as a non-playoff team this season.
In order to make it to the 95 points they'll likely, at a bare minimum, need to have any shot at qualifying for the second season, the Sharks will need 19 points out of their final 13 games this season; a record of 9-3-1 or better. Seeing as nine of those remaining games are on the road and include matchups against top teams like Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Detroit, it's not looking good for the Sharks.
But while today's game might be seen, chronologically, as the one that drove a dagger into the team's playoff chances that's not entirely accurate. The Sharks did well to give arguably the best team in the conference a run for their money through two periods and while unraveling so easily after allowing an unlucky goal to start the third isn't a great sign, it isn't this game or last week's loss to Vancouver that really did in the 2014-15 Sharks. It was dropping games to the likes of Buffalo, Columbus, Carolina, Edmonton and Arizona. It was undergoing a dreadful stretch that lasted the entire month of February. And, most of all, it was management assembling a roster that lacks depth at every position and appears completely directionless going forward. Today's loss provided more a glimpse of what the Sharks could be if they were firing on all cylinders and shored up some of the problem spots on their roster more than it highlighted their most pertinent issues this year.
- I was saying yesterday that Thornton and Pavelski are the only Sharks who haven't been worse this season than they were last year but Matt Irwin belongs in that group as well, especially in light of his body of work since the All-Star break. He now has a five-game point streak going, has 11 points in his last 18 games and has fit in brilliantly alongside Brent Burns on an offensive specialty unit. Great to have him back in the lineup, especially at the cost of Scott Hannan's lineup spot.
- As long as the Sharks are still accumulating Blackhawks hand-me-downs, I'll take one Bryan Bickell this summer. He's certainly overpaid at a $4 million cap hit for two more seasons after this one but he has the skillset and size to complement players like Thornton and Pavelski on a top line as well as slot in at third-line wing. With the Hawks running head-first into a capocalypse this offseason, it's likely the Sharks could acquire him for next to nothing.
- John Scott with a cool 25% Corsi in a game where his team controlled 52% of the even-strength shot attempts. Hopefully the Tarasov recall means less of this shit going forward.
- Mirco Mueller has been playing pretty well recently so you'd hope that mistake doesn't see him stapled to the press box indefinitely. At the same time, right-shooting Taylor Fedun drawing into the lineup to slot Brenden Dillon back on his strong side wouldn't be the worst thing in the world either.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Brandon Saad
2nd Star: Patrick Sharp
3rd Star: Corey Crawford