Sharks Improve Their Play, but the Winless Streak Continues
Looking to end the longest winless streak since December, the Sharks managed to come short again, and instead extended the streak to four games. This losing streak is getting harder and harder to bear, as the last three losses came in regulation, and the Sharks did not have a lead in any of those games. Looking at the players, as they were leaving the ice after the sound of the game ending buzzer, we could see that they felt frustrated once again and as I type this, the locker room must have that same funeral atmosphere that it had two days ago. Should the Sharks continue to feel frustrated, or did we finally see a ray of hope?
Taken as a whole, this was a better effort from the Sharks, when compared to the last two games against the Ducks and the Stars. The players came out willing to compete for pucks, willing to battle along the boards, and as game progressed, in the 2nd and 3rd period the Sharks started taking over the puck possession and creating more chances. The big turnaround began with a powerful drive to the net by Ryane Clowe as he skated past our old friend Christian Ehrhoff, as it was a pick up game somewhere in Frankfurt, and lifted the puck past Roberto Luongo. Could this have been a moment the Sharks started their sleep at the bottom of the deep ocean? It appeared that way for about 12 minutes until the Canucks pulled away again on a goal by Ryan Johnson. On top of that, Luongo was not going to let that game spin out of control, as he stopped one Sharks attack after another. The last five minutes of the game belonged entirely to the Sharks after another highlight reel goal by Joe Pavelski, but the Sharks needed two to take the game into overtime and the desperate effort in the final moments of the game did not translate into goals. The local hero for Team Canada Bobby Lou swallowed everything that was thrown his way.
But when was this game lost?
Once again, the game was lost in the first period. We were expecting the Sharks to fly on the ice after all that talk in the locker room and after an extra practice in Dallas. We thought they would come out and be focused on the task at hand and play like there was no tomorrow. Instead, the team came out flat, and after taking three lazy penalties in a row, they could not kill two of them, as Vancouver took an early lead. The parade of the Sharks to the penalty box at the start of the game has been an issue all season. It kills the momentum, it wears out the defensive forwards and the defense, and especially on the road - it gets the home crowd into the game.
And while the Sharks still fell short, the last two periods of the game gave a sense of the light at the end of this long tunnel. The Sharks started finding their game once McLellan put the stop to the wild line shuffling he's been playing since the Sharks got on the road. Once Heatley was playing next to Marleau and Thornton beginning with the 2nd period, and Setoguchi was playing next to Pavelksi and Clowe, the game changes its tone and direction, and if not for an outstanding play by Luongo, the outcome could have been different.
All signs point that the turnaround is not too far away.