Sharks Gameday: Hitting The Road
|36-11-9, 81 points||25-22-9, 59 points |
|1st in Western Conference ||12th in Western Conference |
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The San Jose Sharks head into St. Louis to face the Blues tonight, kicking off a six game road trip that will round out their pre-Olympic schedule.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic did not make the trip according to David Pollak of Working The Corners. Dan Boyle, who has missed the last five games for the Sharks with an upper-body injury, traveled with the team to St. Louis and will continue to attend practice as he has done for the last week. Whether or not he will play is dependent on a game time decision from head coach Todd McLellan.
Fear The Fin previously reported a possible left knee injury to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, allegedly sustained at the end of the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks on January 29th. With trade rumors involving Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Niclas Wallin heating up, more questions will be asked concerning the severity of Vlasic's injury in the coming days. Possibilities run the gamut from a continuation of the effective injury management strategy McLellan has employed this season, to a situation where Doug Wilson is not releasing any information in order to maintain a position of power at the bargaining table with opposing general managers. That bargaining power will prove to be essential if Wilson plans on upgrading the Sharks blueline before March 3rd, an area of the team that has received it's fair share of concern since the beginning of the year.
Other concerns within the community also bubbled to the surface following a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, with the significance of the defeat being debated as the clock began to wind down.
"We as fans should reasonably expect improvement," Denver Diaspora said. "Not to the point of not enjoying the sport or the team, but when someone points out the similar patterns from previous years, it is ridiculous to make them feel like idiots for doing so."
These patterns, of course, are the ones that have haunted the Sharks for the past four postseasons-- an inability to make a deep playoff run when the level of competition significantly increases. San Jose has not fared well against the current two through nine seeds in the Western Conference this season. The team's record stands at 8-9-3 in regulation and overtime against these opponents, with five games that went to shootout being excluded due to the lack of being able to extrapolate anything useful from the outcome of a skills competition.
This blog has made the case that the post-Olympic stretch is when a hard look at the Sharks performance against playoff teams will be the most beneficial; by mid-April, an improvement in this category would likely quell the concerns that have already begun to grow.
And yet the Sharks find themselves at the top of the Conference for the second straight season, with 81 points in hand and a playoff spot all but guaranteed. They will send eight players to the Olympics later this month, left winger Patrick Marleau has flirted with the Rocket Richard lead all season long, and a revamped bottom six forward group contains more tenacity than the crew who wore teal last season. All in the midst of what arguably could be goaltender Evgeni Nabokov's best season in the NHL.
It's a good time to be a Sharks fan. And naturally, it's also a good time for some perspective.
"We don’t know anything until they drop the puck in April. It’s why it’s so frustrating," said ElvisVF101. "It’s why we can’t make any bold predictions in January, February and March. We just have to wait for April and see what team shows up."
That goes for both sides of the coin.