Sharks Gameday: Keep The Car Running



7:30 PST
2-0-0, 4 points 1-2-0, 2 points
5th in Western Conference
12th in Western Conference
98.5 KFOX,
The Cannon

Try this one on for size- player X makes the roster out of camp, gets sent down after one game, and then is recalled in time for the home opener. Apparently management decided that skating Staubitz and Shelley for a combined 9:32 of ice time wasn't going to do a whole lot of good in the way of winning hockey games with Joe Pavelski out.

As for the Sharks as a whole, they've been heavily outplayed in the defensive end of the ice; while I'm not a big Nabokov apologist by any means, he has been hung out to dry a lot thus far this season due to some very soft plays in front of the net. I may have labeled the blueline a weakness before the season began, but there was no expectation for it to be this poor at even strength. Learn something new every day.

Three games is a small sample size to be certain, and I've refrained from delving into a significant amount of analysis due to that fact. However, in looking at the roster, there's really only two guys you can expect to make notable strides from where they were last season- Vlasic and Demers. Boyle has never been a defensive dynamo, Blake may regress if anything, Murray has likely hit his expected ceiling, and Huskins is at the point in his career where becoming a bonafide top-four defensive defenseman is not in the cards.

This isn't to say things won't improve- I think they will eventually, but it won't be without the requisite growing pains every team goes through at the start of the year (face it- we're spoiled from 2008). October has it's fair share of road games, and November looks to be a very difficult month as well. With the extreme roster turnover this offseason, I'm betting on more Jekkyl & Hyde affairs in the coming months. Toss in the fact that Pavelski's injury is going to hurt the team defensively (especially on the PK) along with the lack of cap space Wilson has to work with (read: good luck finding an upgrade on the blueline outside of the organization), and well, it's probably best to get ready for a tumultuous ride before we hit December.

Keep the car running indeed. You can think of me when you forget your seatbelt.

At any rate, with Ken Hitchock and his three chins bouncing their way into town tonight, how the Sharks move the puck at even strength will likely to determine where this one ends up in the standing column. Columbus is going to do an excellent job of clogging the neutral zone, funnel the puck carriers towards a specific side, and then stand them up at the blueline. David Pollak of Working The Corners reported that the team worked on battling in tight corners during practice yesterday, and hopefully that preparation pays off tonight. Generate speed in the neutral zone, dump the puck into the far corner where your streaking wingers can retrieve it, and then win the possession battle. It's not going to be a pretty plan of attack, but that's what this team needs to do- grind it out at even strength and not rely on powerplay production to keep them in games.

McLellan will likely use the last change to make sure Rick Nash sees a healthy dose of Vlasic-Blake all night. It would be nice to see Pickles rebound after some pretty porous outings thus far this season, and a solid game against one of the best power forwards in the league will hopefully get his legs going. We need him desperately back there.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Goals by Heatley, McGinn, and Blake, all coming at even strength. Manny Malhotra misses an empty net opportunity at the end of the game on purpose, spoiling his former coach's dinner plans.

Go Sharks.