The final stop on the Sharks’ rough road trip takes them to Xcel Energy Center to face off against the Minnesota Wild. The last time the Sharks faced off against the Wild, the Sharks lost in overtime, 4-3. That’s not good news right about now, especially when the Sharks haven’t won a game since the beginning of this road trip against the St. Louis Blues. The next time the Sharks will face the Wild is April 7, the Sharks’ final game of the season, but what matters is a win tonight to snap this two-game losing streak before it can get any longer.
Minnesota, on the other hand, have won their last three, and on a road trip to boot. The Wild are currently sitting in third in the Central Division, and the Sharks are second in the Pacific Division. The Wild do, however, have more points than the Sharks: 75 to the Sharks’ 74.
What can the Sharks do to win?
Perhaps the biggest issues that plagued the Sharks’ past two games were a lack of depth and a lack of ability to find the back of the net. To speak to the latter point, San Jose has recently been outshot by its opponents an inordinate amount. It sounds stupid to type it out, but the Sharks need to shoot the puck in order to get goals so they can win at hockey.
To speak to the former point, the defense left Martin Jones out to dry on Nick Schmaltz’s game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, and third-pair defensemen Brenden Dillon and Dylan DeMelo were mediocre at best against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. The two goals that were scored on both nights came from players on the top two lines. The Sharks simply need more from their bottom six.
What exactly was the point of trading for Eric Fehr, then?
Eric Fehr is by no means the depth center of...maybe anyone’s dreams, but he’s the one that Peter DeBoer wants on the ice. His performance to this point has been, in a word, abysmal, but then again, the rest of the Sharks have been greatly underperforming, as well. He has zero points this season, but he has only played six games.
Fehr put up decent numbers in the 2014-2015 season when he played with the Washington Capitals with 19 goals and 14 assists, but he also played 75 games. More recently, he played 52 games in 2016-2017 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, notching six goals and five assists, and they won the Stanley Cup that year. It may be that what he needs that he didn’t get in Toronto is simply the opportunity to actually play with good teammates; given time to produce he may come close his 2016-2017 totals. Basically, what I’m saying is this: let’s cross our fingers and hope beyond hope that something comes of the Fehr trade and Doug Wilson didn’t give away that seventh-round pick for nothing.
Anyway, while we stress about that, here’s a fun fact: Fehr’s next assist will be the 100th of his career.
Could the Sharks lose second place to the Calgary Flames?
The Flames are currently only one point behind the Sharks in the Pacific. However, since the Sharks are going to win tonight (I am willing this win into existence), they’ll get two more points, putting them at 76. Calgary is on a win streak, but their next game isn’t until February 27 against the Dallas Stars who lost their last game. February 27 is also when the Sharks are facing the Edmonton Oilers, who aren’t contenders in the Pacific, but who still need to lose to the Sharks, if the Sharks want to stay secure in second.
The short answer to the question is a very stressful maybe, but perhaps San Jose’s upcoming homestand can help the Sharks erase this whole road trip mess from their memories.
For tonight, and for our collective health and well-being, it’s best just to focus on winning against Minnesota tonight.
Bold Prediction: Not game-related, but Erik Karlsson gets traded to San Jose today.
The line combinations will come an hour before puck drop, along with our game thread. In the meantime, you can drop your own bold predictions below!