Is the Bay Area ever going to win another game?
It’s a silly question, but it certainly feels that way right now. Ever since the night before the Super Bowl, when the Sharks lost their first game of the season to the Predators, the Bay Area has gone 0-8. Four straight Sharks losses, three straight Warriors defeats and one painful Super Bowl outcome. Of course the Sharks have stolen a couple points by taking some of their losses past regulation, but it isn’t enough to draw any sense of satisfaction.
The Sharks played pretty well in their 1-0 matinee loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, especially through the third period and overtime. They out-shot Phoenix 33-21 and out-chanced them 21-9, including 18-8 at even strength. It was by far San Jose’s most dangerous game of the season, but it doesn’t seem to matter when the goalie they’re facing is Mike Smith.
Smith pitched three shutouts against the Sharks last season and he kept it up this year despite having a disastrous start to his season. Smith stopped all of San Jose’s 33 shots, including stoning them on all four of their power play opportunities. The Sharks’ power play has been so unproductive in the last few games, even the most helpful thesaurus lacks a suitable synonym for the word “cold.”
On the bright side, San Jose has 33 straight penalty kills. Their PK percentage is now 89.3, placing them at third in the league behind only Chicago and Boston, who both boast success rates above 90% against the man advantage.
Another glimmer of hope may lie in Brent Burns, who made his return to the lineup for the Sharks today after recovering from the lingering effects of offseason sports hernia surgery. Burns didn’t look to have missed a step in his debut, playing well not only at the blue line but on special teams as well.
– The Sharks made some interesting moves to get Burns back into the lineup: they put Nick Petrecki on waivers, but it wasn’t enough to clear a roster spot for Burns. As a result, they reassigned Matt Irwin to Worcester and scratched Douglas Murray in favor of playing six defensemen. If Petrecki clears waivers, he’ll be picked back up by the Sharks and assigned to Worcester, while I have a feeling the Sharks could recall Irwin once the aforementioned situation is resolved.
– Todd McLellan used the words “cute” and “fancy” yet again while describing the Sharks’ play on offense. Their puck movement is definitely advanced and can be absolutely deadly when everything clicking, although when San Jose is out of sorts it just turns into a sloppy mess. San Jose suffered 11 turnovers in the first period alone by 11 different players. So much of the Sharks’ early scoring came from simply throwing pucks at the net and cleaning up the rebounds. They’ll have do get back to playing that style of hockey if they want to get back on track.
– One guy who played well Saturday was Ryane Clowe. Poor, poor Ryane Clowe — he took seven shots during the game, many of them in the crease, and still couldn’t find a way to get it into the net. It’s good to see Clowe keep his cool despite the frustration. If he keeps playing the way he did today, he’ll find the net eventually.
– The Sharks will now set out on their yearly road trip from hell to make room for the SAP Open’s annual HP Pavilion invasion. The six-game road trip starts on Monday in Columbus and will last until February 26th, when the team finally returns home to take on the Colorado Avalanche. San Jose has played eight of their last nine games at home, so it’s not a huge deal, but last year’s tennis-caused tour of the Americas left the Sharks in shambles. How this road trip turns out will say a lot about how San Jose will fare down the stretch.