This road trip certainly hasn’t been an easy one for us, Sharks’ fans. The men in teal lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a hard-fought shootout on Tuesday. Friday night, the Sharks gave up a three-goal lead to the Ottawa Senators, eventually losing in overtime. It’s safe to say the Great North road trip has been less than satisfactory so far.
The Ottawa game was one I think we all felt a little too good about. The Senators have been struggling. The Sharks game off a very hard fight against a strong showing from the Toronto Maple Leafs. San Jose had Barclay Goodrow, Jannik Hansen, and Melker Karlsson recently activated from the IR. Aaron Dell, who has done incredibly well this season, was starting between the pipes. Everything was looking good, so what happened?
The Sharks haven’t been an offensively fierce team this season, averaging at roughly 2.7 goals per game. They came out hot, netting five goals, a rare sight this season. Tomas Hertl had his first multi-goal game this season with two. The offensive rhythm was really starting to come through. Somehow, the Sharks managed to allow five goals by the Senators, which lead to a loss in OT. This is a game that they should have had in the bag.
Despite the disappointing loss, there are some good things to take away from this game. The offensive groove the Sharks got into in Canada’s capital was promising. Aaron Dell had a total of 38 saves, remaining solid in times of struggle even though he allowedfive goals. What happened in Ottawa shouldn't happen again, right?
The Winnipeg Jets have been hot as of late. They have won three of their last four games, one being a 5-0 shutout against the Edmonton Oilers. They currently sit happily in first place of the Central Division with 55 points and a game in hand above the Nashville Predators.
The Jets have a lot of scoring capability. Blake Wheeler has a total of 49 points in 42 games played this season. Wheeler has made the transition from right wing to center with Mark Scheifele injured. Since his position change on December 27th, he has scored five goals. The Sharks have given up 16 goals in four games this past week, so the Jet’s offensive unit will be something they’ll need to be mindful of.
Winnipeg will also see the return of defensemen Tobias Enstrom today. The Jets’ defense has been a bit shoddy, something the Sharks could look to capitalize on coming off a game they racked up five goals in. The return of Enstrom and the success of defensemen Jacob Trouba has the Jets’ defense looking much stronger going into today’s matinee game.
When the Sharks meet the Jets, it’s usually a favorable outcome for them. They’ve won all four of their last meetings with Winnipeg, one of those being the early season 4-0 shutout. They will face off again later in the month as well.
Can the Sharks stay lively at the end of a hard road trip?
I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but Eastern Canada is cold. Between the weather, the long road trip, and the hard-fought games leading up to this last one, will the Sharks be up for the challenge? I’m putting my money on yes. Coming off two disappointing losses in OT, I think we’ll see our team come out ready to fight.
Can the Sharks get the game off to a good start, and keep it that way?
The Sharks have really been shining in the third period, coming in with a 14-1 record when leading after 40 minutes. If the Sharks can manage to come out as strong as they did in Ottawa, AND hold on to the lead, this game could be a pretty one. We know the team can produce late in the game, scoring first and holding onto a lead will be the test.
Can the Sharks hold back Blake Wheeler’s success in his new position?
It’s no secret we’ve been gifted with defensemen on this Sharks roster. Blake Wheeler’s move to center will be an interesting one for the Sharks’ D-men. The Jets captain is their top producer, so shutting him down in their zone will be key. It’s expected we’ll see Martin Jones in net. A strong defensive corps will be important as the Sharks battle the currently hot forward.
Bold prediction: Logan Couture will have a hat trick this game. Coming off a concussion, we saw Couture fire some good shots on net the last two Eastern Canada games. I think tonight is the night he’s going to come back swinging.
Be sure to check back for the game thread and lines. If you have a bold prediction I’d love to hear it, throw em’ down in the comments below!