Sharks Gameday: "Reactive and Inconsistent"



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21-13-6, 48 points 21-15-5, 47 points
4th in Western Conference
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Tonight marks the official start of the second half of the season for the Sharks. While their record of 21-15-5 through the first 41 games of the season is respectable, it is not quite what most people expected with the group assembled. But what is more troubling is their inconsistency, how one night they can thoroughly beat a top team in the league, and the next they blow a two goal lead in the third. Again.

Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson spoke with the team yesterday, as reported by David Pollak. While the mid-season meeting would have taken place regardless of the state of the team, the shutout loss to Buffalo on Thursday helped set the tone to the meeting.

"There were some that were told they've done a very good job to this point in the season," McLellan said, "and then there were others that were told a lot more is expected from them."

It is fairly obvious who some of the "very good job" players are – both Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe immediately come to mind – and some of who really need to step it up – Patrick Marleau is the big one here. The rest fall between those two extremes, although I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the team trends towards the Patrick Marleau end of things.

While the Sharks didn’t seem to respond to Clowe’s comments earlier this week, perhaps the meeting with the boss will finally get them the consistency that they need. As Clowe said yesterday, "First and foremost, the next 10 or 15 games are to fire this engine up and get us going. If that doesn't happen, Doug has choices to make." And at this point, few players should be considered untouchable.

As with every game this season, tonight’s game is an important one. Nashville is one point ahead of the Sharks in the standings with one fewer game played. The Sharks lose in regulation tonight; they could possibly be pushed out of playoff position. They win in regulation; they could be in second place.

The Predators come into the game tonight on a four-game winning streak, with wins over Minnesota, Columbus, Anaheim, and Los Angeles. They beat each of those teams by a margin of three goals, and even managed to beat our Southern California brethren on back-to-back games. In a word, they are hot.

The last time these two teams met up this season, the Sharks had a one goal lead coming into the third period, only to find themselves trailing late in the third after the Predators scored two goals in 44 seconds. On the official Nashville Predators site, it was voted the second-best game(s) of the season. Pardon me for being selfish, but I’d rather not have any Sharks game be a favorite game for opposing fans.

I expect Antti Niemi to make the start tonight based on the shaky start Antero Niittymaki had on Thursday, but be sure to check Working the Corners for the actual starter. With the back-to-back games this weekend, it is all but guaranteed that both goalies with see action.

On a serious note, news came out yesterday that former Sharks prospect Tom Cavanagh was found dead by his car in a mall parking lot on Thursday. He was 28 years old. Drafted by the Sharks in the 6th round in the 2001 Entry Draft, he played 18 games with the Sharks over the course of two seasons. He scored his only NHL goal on March 28, 2009 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Condolences to the Cavanagh family from all of us here at Fear the Fin.

Prediction: 4-2 Sharks. Goals scored by Logan Couture, Kent Huskins, Devin Setoguchi, and Jamie McGinn. He’s got to score a goal at some point, right?