The Sharks have completed two-thirds of their second longest home stand this season. They have shown strong capabilities in every facet of the game.
However, the Sharks are struggling to win games and score goals while Antero Niittymaki’s play in net continues to be outstanding. Their goal scoring struggles have finally caught up to them at home in San Jose against the Ducks and the Islanders.
Starting with Niittymaki, the quality of play has been great for the Sharks.
Nittymaki has played great between the pipes with a 1.80 GAA and an astounding .929 save percentage. He is currently ranked in the top ten goaltenders in the league. He has kept them in position to win by not giving up any regrettable goals no matter how busy he has been and how difficult the saves have to be. Most notably was the third period he played against the Tampa Bay Lightning during which he made 18 saves on 19 shots, his biggest against Steven Stamkos of the Lighting on his second breakaway of the game.
Nittymaki has not fallen asleep when shots against were low and was able to come up big on the second of two shots he faced against the Ducks in the first period of their 3-2 loss in overtime. He also hadn’t seen a Lightning shot for a few minutes before he made a stop on Lightning Stamkos’ first period breakaway. His play has been huge for the Sharks and it must continue.
The defense has really shaped up especially on the penalty kill. Teams are being held to the outside for most of the game, the goals against coming from deflections made in front of the net on shots from the outside. The defense does lapse every game sometimes for varying amounts of time, marked by trouble clearing the zone and errant passes up the ice.
The Sharks defensemen are doing a good job with their stick checking, making it back to cover on turnovers, and moving the puck out of the zone. The top defensemen in the zone have been Jason Demers and Niclas Wallin, while the others are increasing playing better. Offensively, Dan Boyle has been unmatched by another Sharks defensemen with the puck.
Although the Sharks Offense is outshooting opponents by an extraordinary amount, they are struggling to score goals. They netted two against the Anaheim Ducks on their 41 shots and one against the New York Islanders on the Sharks’ 38 shots.
The Sharks are working hard and getting great opportunities but can’t seem to find the back of the net. Joe Pavelski and Dany Heatley have it the worst. On many occasions, pucks have bounced over their sticks and have stubbornly not settled for their opportunities. They are having trouble settling the puck to finish with wide open nets and great scoring chances.
In every game, the offense has continued putting a great deal of pressure on the opposition’s defense and goaltending. Against the Sharks, teams know they have to be really good in net and on defense, so they come prepared.
Through hard work, the Sharks still manage to get past defenses and work their way to the net. Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Scott Nichol, Torrey Mitchell and Pavelski have all been working hard to create turnovers and fight to the slot creating chances over the past three games. The top line was inactive against the Islanders, and Patrick Marleau was silent while missing the Captain Joe Thornton against Tampa Bay.
The only thing stopping the Sharks from winning each game so far is the absence of the scoring touch. The team breaks down and plays sloppily after seeing that their efforts are for naught.
The overall play of the Sharks has been fantastic, but not finding the back of the net in big situations has been keeping them from being as successful and consistent effort wise as they should be. The scoring touch will come and with it many wins, until then sit tight and watch the team struggle to gain it.