The San Jose Sharks (21-12-7) play their final game of the 2018 calendar year tonight against the Calgary Flames (23-12-4), who currently lead the Pacific Division. The Flames’ 50 points are tied with the Vegas Golden Knights for the most in the division, but the lead comes with a few games in hand — the Flames have played 39 games, while the Knights have played 42 and the Sharks have played 40.
The Sharks have won their last two games after losing back-to-back games against Pacific Division rivals, both in overtime. In the two wins, the Sharks have scored 11 goals, but have also allowed six.
The Flames most recently lost to the Vancouver Canucks, who are just out of playoff position, 3-2 in overtime. In their last 10 games, the Flames are 5-3-2.
Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames in points with 51 (19 goals, 32 assists), and he’s sixth in the entire NHL in points. The Flames also have the 22nd, 26th and 27th highest scoring players: Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, all with 40+ points.
The Sharks’ highest scoring players are Logan Couture and Brent Burns, both with 38 points. They’re ranked 37th and 40th respectively.
The fact that the Flames have four players with more points than any Sharks is somewhat concerning. They have multiple players who can light it up, and they can’t play them all at the same time. So the Sharks’ defense will have to work to control more than one of the Flames’ lines.
Scoring Out of Problems
I mentioned up above that the Sharks have scored 11 goals but given up 6 in their past two games. Add the Chicago game in the middle of the month and there appears to be a pattern. The Sharks are scoring their way out of trouble; they’re relying on their offense to make up for defensive issues. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Sharks have the league-lowest 5-on-5 combined save percentage. Scoring your way out of problems isn’t a good tactic in ... any sport, really. If the scoring starts to become a problem too, you’re doomed.
The Flames’ Mark Jankowski has scored four shorthanded goals this season (which is tied for the league lead) ... and only six goals overall. Most of his offense is coming on his own team’s penalty kill, which is absurd. No Sharks player has more than one short-handed goal. Jankowski is in his second NHL season, by the way (Technically third, but can you really count one game in 2016-17?).
The Flames are tied for first in the NHL with 10 total short-handed goals. Pacific Division friends Arizona and Vegas have 10 and 6, respectively.
The Sharks have a top-10 power play, but they may want to actually avoid drawing penalties in this game.
Bold prediction: The Sharks score a shorthanded goal for themselves.