After an impressive 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks continued to struggle on the road.
Against the Kings, the Sharks played a strong 60 minutes from the goaltending to the offense. Against the Avalanche and Stars, the Sharks could not keep up the high level of play they exhibited against the Kings.
The offense has finally been blessed the scoring touch. All lines are applying pressure on opposing defenses and scoring. The Sharks’ attack has been effective in penetrating the slot and creating scoring chances from high percentage areas in front of the net. There seems to always be someone in front of the net screening the goalie making stopping the puck hard.
The success on the offensive side of the puck has come from all four lines working hard to create turnovers, consistent and constant shooting, and crashing the net. The stars of the last three games have been rookie Logan Coture, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and Scott Nichol, while Ryane Clowe, Jamie McGinn, and Torrey Mitchell have also been relentless in their pursuit for the puck. Perhaps even more importantly, Sharks’ forwards have been doing their part on the back check to help out the defense.
The defense was great against the Kings, but slacked against the Avalanche and against the Stars while missing Douglas Murray and Niclas Wallin. During the last game of their home stand, the defense was strong with their coverage keeping puck carriers to the outside and chances away from the front of the net.
Once they went on the road, Mike Moore and Derek Joslin took over for the missing Wallin and Murray. The defense did a good job for the majority of the game, but it missed the physical presences of the two scratched D-men, especially that of Murray. The new defensive pairs were not quite as effective in keeping attackers away from the net. Moore, who scored his first NHL goal against the Avalanche, and Joslin did a good job helping out on the offensive and were able to play tough in the defensive end. It took a while for them to settle in with the team when they started playing against Colorado.
Despite the lack of success on the road, the goaltending of Antero Nittymaki and Annti Niemi was good. Niittymaki had issues following the pace of the desperate late Avalanche attack along with the defense in front of him which continued into the overtime. Same story happened with Niemi against the Stars. Both netminders seemed to lose focus at the end of the game when it mattered. Seems to be an issue the Sharks have to deal with on the Road, staying focus and strong through to the end. The positive side is that they managed to come out with a point in each game.
Early on in the game against the Stars, there was a lack of flow as if the entire game was a mash-up of broken plays which made the flow hard to follow for any players on either side. The goals given up in the first period could not be held against the defense. The Sharks responded strongly eventually regain the lead while controlling the play.
The power play must pick up its pace again. The Sharks wasted two double minors on the road, chances that could have put the game out of the reach of both hosts. The penalty kill was good at some points of the game with putting pressure on other teams’ PK units and poor at other times.
The inconsistencies in the Sharks’ special teams and their play in the defensive end must become more consistent before they can hope to be successful during the rest of the season and playoffs. The inconsistencies may be helped with the return of Murray and Wallin from their injuries. Until they return the defense will struggle to play a strong 60 minutes anywhere without a defensemen stepping up to lead the team.