Oof. Listen, a “W” on the road against a team that’s been playing well at even strength is always a plus. Aaron Dell shutting the gates? That’s hopeful. But, the San Jose Sharks got pummeled in Montreal on the shot counter last night, and reminders of the team’s depth issues shone far too brightly.
Through two periods San Jose took just eight shots during 5-on-5 hockey. With 10 skaters per side, the Sharks were outshot (all shots) by 22 and generated just 30 percent of expected goals. Even after adjusting for the score — the Sharks scored three goals quickly early in the second period — and scoring biases, the numbers don’t look much better.
Offensively, the team did find its way to the front of the net on occasion. Four goals in the box score will tell you that much. Twenty-three total shots on goal, though? That’s not going to cut it. Especially when, defensively, this was the output:
Speaking of defense, these ice times are just egregious. Tim Heed has had a poor start to the season, by all means. He’s not any sort of savior. If your only recourse to that is loading up Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson’s workloads ten games into the season, playing Brenden Dillon of all people in top-four minutes, and sending Marc-Edouard Vlasic over the boards like it’s 2014? Just let the algorithms coach.
Tim Heed gives up one scoring chance and he’s done for the night. Burns gives up a scoring chance each shift and it’s more. More. More! Over the boards again, Brent. I’m not going to pretend Tim Heed offers anything like the sort of transition and offensive impact than does an on-his-game Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson. I simply cannot allow that an extra 10 minutes of Heed is going to hurt the Sharks’ ability to win games so much that it’s worth risking your franchise defenseman playing half of each game before the calendar flips to November.
There were also things beyond the coaching staff’s control that are terrifying for this team moving forward. After the top three forward lines spent the first 10 minutes of 5-on-5 play getting devoured, head coach Pete DeBoer ran through seven different forward line combinations. Sorry, Pete. I am not sure that a perpetual line blender is going to hide the fact Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson are your next best bets after cruising through the top-six group.
If the team’s white knight was Patrick Marleau skating through the Shark head only to deteriorate into a 47-percent-of-shots second liner, then we probably don’t want to see how this fairy tale ends.
Through their first 10 games, San Jose have just nine points and have been outscored by six goals. It’s not a surprising outcome for a team that continues to struggle to defend and that simply has not come anywhere close to replacing the ability of Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist to drive play. In those first 10 games, the Sharks have outshot and outchanced their opponents just three times at 5-on-5, and it shows.
At least last night we were treated to a rare positive goaltending performance. At all strengths, Aaron Dell faced 37 shots on goal. He probably should have allowed three or four goals. Instead, he allowed just two, stopping 94 percent of those shots (Natural Stat Trick).
The season so far is short and the sample sizes small. But if I’m the Sharks I’m panicking just a little about the fact it doesn’t look like I’m going to contend as things stand. I’m panicking that I have three defensemen on mega-contracts and maybe one of them is helping the team win regularly. If I’m the Sharks, I’m doing something differently moving forward, because what’s happening right now mostly isn’t working.
How the coaching staff and organization respond to this early-season tumble will be an interesting storyline in the days to come. For the time being, it looks like they’re back to their old tricks, and it’s not helping.