The Sharks fell into a 2-1 series hole last night thanks to Zack Kassian’s game-winning goal in the third period. While it’s easy to blame David Schlemko’s turnover or Martin Jones allowing his fourth five-hole goal of the series, the truth of the matter is San Jose has a serious scoring problem.
Now three games into the series, the Sharks have scored three times — all of which came in game one. That’s a six-period scoring drought, for those keeping track at home. They have scored three goals on 83 shots (a tidy .964 save percentage for Cam Talbot). I know I said the Oilers had the goaltending edge in this series, but I don’t think any of us predicted it would be by such a wide margin.
Before I bend over backwards to credit Talbot for his miraculous netminding, I think it’s fair to say the Sharks haven’t looked all that dangerous in this series. While the possession numbers in game three were very even, I’d say the Oilers had the most dangerous chances (hockeystats.ca had the Sharks ahead in total scoring chances, but I’m referring to the eye test in terms of high-danger chances — your mileage may vary).
San Jose has certainly had chances to score, and I think in some capacity we can point to bad luck. Martin Jones hasn’t been the problem in this series, and it’s a shame the Sharks have wasted his fine performance so far. That being said, if all things were to be equal, San Jose was never going to win a series that came down to “which side executed its chances better.”
I just didn’t think Edmonton would have its chances converted by guys like Kassian. Hockey is a funny game that way. Connor McDavid remains the author of the Sharks’ pain, of course, but don’t forget to put Ryan Nugent Hopkins on your Christmas card list. That line has done a fair job of terrorizing the Sharks in this series, too.
For San Jose, the problem lies in chance creation and there’s not really a great fix. Head coach Pete DeBoer scratched Mikkel Boedker to bring Joe Thornton into the lineup and while Jumbo played okay he certainly wasn’t at 100 percent. I have reservations about using Thornton or Logan Couture in this series, but scratching a creative player like Boedker while keeping Marcus Sorensen in the lineup is removing bullets from San Jose’s offensive gun.
For game four, the Sharks are best off taking a new outlook on the offense. Instead of trying to play a sandpaper game, the Sharks should focus 100 percent on chance creation. Forget hits and forget grit: try to match the OIlers’ speed game. Sure, it might go poorly, but San Jose needs goals something fierce right now and the SHarks need to take chances to make it happen. Get Boedker and Kevin Labanc in the lineup; what’s the worst that can happen?