Last night was fun, right? Just when it looked like the Sharks might do that thing where they blow a 3-0 lead, they managed to come back in a big way and win 6-4 over the Edmonton Connor McDavids.
While the win was nice, it’s hard to pinpoint the direction of this team right now. It’s difficult to not continue bringing up the loss of Joe Thornton because the Sharks haven’t shown that they don’t struggle without him. In the eight games without Jumbo, they’ve gone 3-4-1. When they’re good, they good. More often than not, it seems like they’re just okay.
The good news is that they’ve managed to hold on to the second place spot in the Pacific Division, still ten points behind the Vegas Golden Knights.
Tim Heed was sent down yesterday to play with the San Jose Barracuda, leaving the Sharks with only six defensemen on the roster last night. Because both teams were playing on home ice, it was an easy one day trip to get Heed ice time. He finished the night with three shots on goal and four penalty minutes. The Barracuda lost to the San Diego Gulls 3-2 in overtime. Per the AHL, Heed was called up to the Sharks this morning, as traveling with only six D-men is a little riskier.
They’ll be heading out to SoCal to visit the San Diego Gulls’ parent club, the Anaheim Ducks, and they’ll be making the trip with their own parents in tow. Let’s hope the dads bring some luck to the boys in teal as they take on a second divisional game in as many nights.
This is the final game in the season series against Anaheim, having met twice in November and once last month. The November games were split, with a shootout winner going to each team. When they met again last month, the Sharks played one of their best games of the year, taking home a 6-2 victory. Even on the second half of a back-to-back, with travel, they embarrassed a Ducks roster that was finally starting to look healthy.
Of course, the Sharks lost Joe Thornton in the next game, so tonight could go in any direction.
Here are three things to look out for against these division rivals:
Healthy and rested versus tired and tested
The Sharks are once again facing a back-to-back with travel. And while last night’s game was fun, it was also exhausting. Clawing their way out for a comeback is great, but now they’ve got to be ready for an early start tonight in Anaheim. To cap it off, they have to do it without Joe Thornton on the top line and Joel Ward on the fourth.
The Ducks, meanwhile, took last night off after beating the same Oilers 3-2 on home ice Friday. Though injuries nagged at this team early in the season, they’re finally healthy and looking to regain those points they lost early on, putting them fifth in the Pacific.
Weak offense against a weak defense
Something about the Sharks’ defense has been off lately. Tim Heed will likely find himself in the press box again tonight and at this point, it just is what it is. More and more it seems like the Sharks’ offense and defense are a real “neither can live while the other survives” scenario.
That could be okay for them tonight because the Ducks’ offense is nowhere to be found. They are 23rd in the league in goals per game (2.77), 24th in shots on goal per game (30.5) and their power play ranks 22nd (18.1 percent). Shutting down the Ducks is, in theory, a cakewalk, and could boost the confidence of this D-corps.
Capitalizing on mistakes
The Ducks are one of the most penalized teams in the league, averaging nearly 11 minutes in the box per game. An average penalty kill (81.1 percent, 16th in the NHL) puts the special teams battle heavily in San Jose’s favor.
For a team that’s been struggling to score at 5-on-5 lately, surprisingly, not one of the Sharks’ six goals last night were on the man advantage. If they can keep up even-strength scoring, great — it’s much needed. But if they need to fall back on their fourth-best power play, they’ll have no problem scoring goals tonight.
Bold prediction: Someone will try to fight Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Eddie the Sniper has shown a little offensive flair recently, and in the final meeting of these NorCal/SoCal rivals, things could get testy. Watch your face, Pickles.
We’ll have line combos for you an hour before puck drop, as well as an open discussion thread to follow the action live. In the meantime, drop a bold prediction in the comments below!