SAN JOSE- All of a sudden, the San Jose Sharks have earned six of out a possible eight points in their last four games. On Saturday night, “Team Teal” knocked off the Edmonton Oilers by a 3-2 final score for their second straight win and second straight on home ice.
After a dramatic third period comeback Thursday lifted the Sharks over the Avalanche, the Sharks carried over that momentum against the Oil.
San Jose’s top guns, including Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, had previously been stone cold but in the last two or three or even four games, the stars have been turning up the juices.
But prior to that come from behind victory over the Avalanche, the Sharks were in a significant slump. Two wins in nine games certainly does not sound very pretty.
That said, in the final two games of the previous road trip, San Jose was able to eek out two very big points. In Chicago the Sharks played a quality 40 minutes and star defenseman Dan Boyle got back on the score-sheet. Sure the Sharks would lose in overtime but a point is a point. And sure, two nights later in Colorado they blew yet another third period lead but late heroics by Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau earned them yet another point.
And wouldn’t you know it, with that big comeback in the books, the Sharks were suddently a much more respectable 3-3-2 in their past eight games. A mark that certainly sounds a lot better than two wins in nine games.
Thanks in large part to picking up those two crucial points on the road, the Sharks, (despite their struggles), are only a short hot streak away from jumping back up to the tops of the standings. In fact, the Win over the Oilers has them already back a top the Pacific Division.
Although in order to stay there, the Sharks have to be better at home where they were just 8-6-1 coming into this six game home-stand that closes out the calendar year.
Their captain, Joe Thornton, whose second period goal tied the score at two a piece Saturday night, weighed in on the importance of taking care of home ice.
“We have to take care of our home games, we know that.” Thornton said. “We need some wins, we have to take care of our home games. We have to take care of home ice.”
That was no accident in the typing of that quotation, Thornton mentioned home ice/home games three separate times. And it isn’t hard to figure out why. The Sharks have historically been a dominant home team, and the inconsistency this season in winning here in San Jose has certainly weighed on the minds of the captain as well as many other players.
A good way to start winning more home games would be to improve the struggling special teams. While the Sharks did give up a short-handed goal to Ryan Jones in the second period, the winning third period goal by Patrick Marleau came on the man advantage and the penalty kill (which has been one of if not the worst units in the league all season) came through with a perfect two-for-two night.
Not the best night on special teams, but it’s certainly a start.
“It’s a stepping stone” commented veteran center Michal Handzus. “Obviously special teams are huge. [They haven't been] great but you have to start somewhere.”
A long time penalty killer, Handzus was brought into San Jose this offseason to help address San Jose’s penalty kill which fell from one of the top units two years ago to the bottom third last season.
So far, there has been no improvement to speak of in terms of league ranking but a return to form could certainly be right around the corner. Special teams tend to ebb and flow, and with San Jose’s top guns cranking up the offense in recent games, the penalty kill might just be prime for a parallel hot streak.
Any and all improvements will be a welcomed sights for Shark fans as their team tries to find a consistency in their game that allows them to remain a top of the standings instead of playing catch up.
Around this time last year is where the Sharks lost six straight games and had to claw their way back to the top the entire second half.
Martin Havlat scored just his second goal of the year against the Oilers to open the scoring as he finished off a two-on-none rush with Handzus.
Oilers star Jordan Eberle tied the score at one a piece with a highlight reel individual effort around Sharks defenseman Colin White.
Both Havlat and White left the game with undisclosed injuries in the third period.
Antti Niemi made 23 saves in the victory on 25 shots while Nikolai Khabibulin made 34 on 37 in a losing effort.