The Sharks have been missing just a little, je ne sais quoi these days. It’s hard to blame their recent stretch of iffy hockey on missing players; the team has played without its best player for long stretches already this season and done just fine. Instead, we are left to chalk up their little losing streak to maybe something not too definable. To intangibles, if you will.
There is plenty of luck in hockey, and it would appear the Sharks have experienced plenty of the bad type of luck during the last four games. Though the scoreboard has read poorly for Team Teal, they’ve managed to generate the bulk of scoring chances at 5-on-5 during that time. The results against them, then, have been somewhat unjust.
Tonight was not a similar case, not just another data point along the same trend line. With the manpower equal, San Jose were pitiful in the first period, taking just 36 percent of all shots and generating just more than 50 percent of all scoring chances, after adjusting for the score and venue. They improved during the second period and seemed to take control of the game before falling back into a lull in the final frame. Though the Sharks took the majority of 5-on-5 shots, they overtook the Kings by just four total shots and one scoring chance—hardly a shellacking that the 56 and 55 percent marks suggest.
It’s clear that the Sharks’ offense is becoming a bit of an issue right now. They are failing to get quality chances near the goalmouth even against poor opponents like tonight and have begun relying entirely too much on point shots while cycling in the zone. Erik Karlsson’s absence hurts, as does that of Joe Pavelski—who has been adept at creating offensive scoring chances at even-strength—but this team has fought through injuries to its start player before. Perhaps a bit of rest for some of the older teammates might be in order as the team moves into the final few weeks of the season.
FRIENDS. Hello. The time is Ny. Sharks. Kings. Staples Center. Rivalry. Some quick updates before the puck hits the ice: Evander Kane is in. Logan Couture is out with the flu, apparently. So it looks as if Lukas Radil is centering the Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane line.
18:15: Kings get a nice chance after the Sharks turn it over in their own zone. Shaky start so far for the visitors.
14:41: Ah, yes. Dustin Brown. When he isn’t knocking knees he’s ... scoring goals? Beats Martin Jones after sending a surprise shot through Tomas Hertl’s legs while cycling in the offensive zone. Very unexpected all around, including probably by Brown.
14:41: DeBoer challenges for goaltender interference because he’s frustrated and it doesn’t work because there was no interference. That’s a heck of a vote of confidence for your goaltender, though. “Hey, this goal couldn’t have been real because it was so bad the goalie must have been run into.”
11:50: Meier sends a little “piiing” in off Jonathan Quick’s chest and the crossbar but nothing beyond a little music. Kings turn it around and sling one onto Jones’ chest pads.
9:00: Timo Meier falling over on the zone entry but still earning a successful zone entry is very Timo Meier.
8:00: Whenever an announcer says “remember that save from [goaltender],” think to yourself about the bad goals they let in and ask why people never ask us to remember those non saves.
6:47: Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and a bunch of dudes they picked up outside the arena are outshooting the Sharks 11-3, so, I don’t know, I might just go to bed early tonight.
2:27: A high deflection by Barclay Goodrow sends the Sharks back even, which frankly is against the run of play but should have happened ages ago because the Kings are bad, so, don’t sweat it.
END FIRST: Sharks 1: Kings: 1
Basically, this. A little tippy tip, a little flingy fling. The Sharks scored against the run of play and against the run of their play the last week or so. They’re lucky the Kings are bad because this first period was lopsided in favor of the home team. The Sharks’ worst period this season is the second period, so they’ll have to buck trends to come away with a goal advantage after 40.
18:50: They just put Dustin Brown on the jumbotron for soon-to-be all-time leader in games played and, like, I couldn’t think of a worse person to represent your franchise in any capacity.
17:07: Radil has an amazing chance but can’t quite sweet the puck past Quick’s outstretched pad. Good look for the bizarrely scratched forward.
16:15: Hertl. Brent Burns. Hertl. The youngish center continues is stellar raw point-scoring season with his 32nd goal of the season. Burns gets his NHL defender-leading 63d assist, and the Sharks seem to be a little more in control this period so far.
11:47: Meier shoots a breakaway off Quick’s leg pad after a wonderful Burns pass beats everyone and sets the star winger free.
5:40: Meier just keeps creating unblocked shots at 5-on-5. Even if he isn’t racking up points like Nikita Kucherov, his impact on the team’s offense is immense.
3:29: Jeff Carter pushes Meier in the “butt” as Jamie Baker announces, and Meier goes hard into the boards. Jeff Carter, we are coming for you with pitchforks.
END SECOND: Sharks 2, Kings 1
Hey look at least the right team is winning now. The Sharks took 67 percent of the 5-on-5 shots in the second period (Natural Stat Trick) and generated just more than 71 percent of the scoring chances. That’s quite a turnaround for a team that looked flat, tired, and bummed after losing three-straight games at home.
18:46: How many goals does Martin Jones have to let in before Radil sits for the balance of the game?
17:45: The Nyquist—Hertl—Meier line is a lot of fun. Ducking and weaving in the neutral zone, looking for the next pass. Not necessarily going north and south all the time. Hang onto it, and do something different!
13:25: Another good shift by the TimGusTom line without a result. It feels like they are about to break through soon, though.
13:00: Both announcers mentioned +/-. Drink!
10:32: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it looks like Matt Roy as scored his first NHL goal against the Sharks. Barclay Goodrow accidentally redirects the shot past Jones and it went past the goal line with white ice between it and the rubber, so ...
9:37: 10 minutes left in a late tie means Meier and Kane are going to lead the Sharks forwards in ice time tonight.
8:22: The in-arena announcer sounds like if Ryan Seacrest had an uncle.
8:15: Kopitar scores, of course, after the Sharks lose a board battle and the ensuring pick hunt, resulting in a bouncing puck to Kopitar and a nice deke-and-goal sequence. We are in lol territory, folks.
4:29: Sharks are losing the shots-on-goal count by quite a few at this point. It’s been a not-so-great late stretch for the guys for whom first place in the division is imperative to playoff success.
3:02: Looks like the Kings knocked the puck over the glass from their defensive zone, so what is potentially the silliest rule in the NHL sends the Sharks to a power play and not a moment too soon!
1:17: Kings find the puck along the boards in their zone, Jeff Carter flips a long shot up, over the Sharks, across the red line and across the goal line for the sealant.
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 2, Kings 4
In what was a surprising turn of events for a team that hadn’t lost two games in a row in regulation all season, the San Jose Sharks lost all three games on their recent homestand. Though the sun has been peaking out from behind the Bay Area clouds lately, one would be wise to bet good money on the even sunnier confines of Los Angeles helping to end the mini skid.
Despite the Sharks’ recent spate of poor results, the team has still maintained the lion’s share of scoring chances. However, the high proportion of chances they’ve collected has been overwhelmingly defensive. Los Tiburones, as the new Spanish-language social media accounts would like us to remember fondly, must reach into their back pockets in search of an O-zone spark if they are to succeed.
Luckily, what Las Vegas brings in spades — dangerous offense — Los Angeles lacks in equal parts. Led by an aging Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli and a struggling Drew Doughty, the Kings don’t have much in the way of resistance to a Sharks team of superior talent and on-ice results.
One team’s trash is another team’s treasure and Los Angeles’ distinct lack of defense should prove the offensive catalyst San Jose has been lacking. With the moribund pair of Adrian Kempe and the ghost of Jeff Carter manning the Kings’ middle-six forward lines, San Jose’s exceptional depth units should have no trouble cashing in on the mismatches up front.
The Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Gustav Nyquist unit should see plenty of Derek Forbort, Drew Doughty and Kopitar, leaving things wide open at 5-on-5 for Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton to move up and down the ice unencumbered by opposing talent.
While the even-strength battle should be no contest for the visitors, the special teams matchup should pose little threat, as well. The Kings penalty kill, while solid, is no match for San Jose’s top-three power play. If the Kings manage to spend two minutes with a man-advantage, it’s likely they’ll spend all two minutes of it looking in vain for nonexistent chances.
In sum, this game should belong handily to the Sharks. However, as this team has shown all season, no lead is big enough for Martin Jones to keep.
Expected scratches: Lukas Radil, Jacob Middleton, Erik Karlsson (groin), Joe Pavelski (lower-body injury)
Kings (via Jewels From the Crown)
Alex Iafallo — Anze Kopitar — Dustin Brown
Carl Grundstrum — Adrian Kempe — Tyler Toffoli
Brendan Leipsic — Jeff Carter — Trevor Lewis
Austin Wagner — Kyle Clifford
Derek Forbort — Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez — Matt Roy
Sean Walker — Paul LaDue
Expected scratches: Ilya Kovalchuk (what a signing!), Dion Phaneuf, Jonny Brodzinski
Where to Watch
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. Pacific/10:30 p.m. Eastern from Staples Center. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports California in the Bay Area and Fox Sports West in the Los Angeles area. Radio call in the Bay Area will be on 98.5 KFOX or through the Sharks app.