An Unproductive Day- The San Jose Sharks after coming out of the gate with a seven game winning streak have seen their fortunes take a complete 180 degree turn in their last four games. Of those four games, three of have been at the Shark Tank. Despite another spotless effort by team teal’s goalie Antti Niemi who gave his team 65 minutes of shutout net minding, it would all be for not as the Phoenix Coyotes had an ace up their sleeve in goalie Mike Smith. The Coyotes’ Smith made 33 saves on the afternoon as the desert dogs managed to get the game into a shootout period before knocking off the Sharks 1-0. The setback is the Sharks fourth straight after a seven game winning streak, though two of the losses happened in shootout periods giving team teal a point in the standings on both occasions. The Sharks offense after a hot start has completely not only cooled off, but has gone stone cold. The Sharks are getting pucks on and towards the net, but just cannot seem to get anything in the net as off late (save for Tuesday Night’s first period against the Blackhawks). In the four game slide, the Sharks have been shutout in nine of the last 12 periods they have played. In only one of those periods in which they scored have they managed more than one goal. In about half of those periods, the Sharks have been completely dominated and outplayed on both ends of the ice.
Today things just did not get better for team teal as they are heading out on a six game road trip that could be a make or break deal as they will see Chicago twice, St. Louis, Nashville, and Dallas. The Sharks first stop on the long road trip will be Monday in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. The Sharks need to start coming together as this trip will have an impact on how their season may go from the end of the trip to the end of April.
If You Hate Goals, You’ll Love This- The Coyotes carried a good portion of the play in the opening period before the Sharks came on late. The Sharks did not help their cause very much as they committed 10 turnovers, many in their own defensive zone forcing Niemi to make a number of saves on some very close calls. As the period wore on the Sharks would find their legs and start to take charge late. The Coyotes would outshoot the Sharks 9-8 or the period. Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe came closest to scoring for Sharks. There were no penalties in a relatively clean and fast opening period. Smith in goal for Coyotes with history of being tough on the Sharks and held to form during the opening period. The second period would almost be a carbon copy of the first period as both teams traded scoring opportunities throughout the period. The Sharks had a couple of power play chances that were nothing to write home about. Again it was Niemi who would hold the fort for team teal. The Sharks in this middle period would be 2 for 2 on the penalty kill.
The Very Definition of a Slump- The third period would see the Sharks outshoot the Coyotes 15-3. The Sharks had multiple decent looks at it and a number of scoring chances along with two more failed power plays. The second failed power play nearly ended up in a short handed goal for the Coyotes. On a day where the Sharks were all mired in frustration, Clowe would a total of seven shots on goal and Dan Boyle had five. This would only point to the Sharks team wide futility of late. Give credit where credit is due too as Smith held his ground in the net for the Coyotes and played every bit of a solid game as Niemi did for the Sharks. Team teal would also again fail on three power play opportunities with the final power play of the day looking very listless and tired. The overtime was just an exchange of faint scoring chances by both teams, thought there would be some late drama in the final 20 seconds as the returning Brent Burns was called for a slashing penalty. The Sharks were able to kill off the Coyotes four on three power play by being able to tie up the puck.
Shootout Misery Continues- The Sharks for the fourth time in 11 games played were forced into a shootout period which would only prove to serve as a reminder of the teams latest woes. Niemi who has been solid all through the year may have been out of gas as he gave up two shootout goals to the Coyotes Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata. Both Handzus, and James Sheppard (a curious choice) were stoned rather easily by Smith who did not have to do very much to stop either attempt.
The Coyotes get two of the possible three points in the standings for their efforts in locking up the Sharks all afternoon long. The Sharks come away having played a better game certainly then they did against Chicago this past Tuesday, but have little to show for it if anything at all. With the six game road trip lying ahead of them, this team needs to not only regroup, but maybe even sole search if this slump is not broken soon. The only real good news besides Niemi’s efforts were the Sharks penalty kill units which have killed off 33 straight opponents power plays. If not for that, there is no way the Sharks are in the top eight in the Western Conference Standings right now. There is a lot of hockey still to play (37 games), however the Sharks are going to need to be better than a hot-cold up and down team if they have any serious aspirations towards a post season run. The game Monday in Columbus marks the quarter point of the season.
Shark Bytes- The game’s three star selection was 3) Coyotes- Boedker; 2) Sharks- Niemi; and 1) Coyotes- Smith. Logan Couture was held without a single shot on goal. Handzus, Joe Thornton, Scott Gomez and Tommy Wingles had three shots on goal each. Jason Demers and Martin Havlat had two each. Patrick Marleau who has not scored a goal in six straight games was held to just one shot on goal. In the last seven games in which Mike Smith has faced the Sharks, he has shut them out four times. The Sharks power play is now 0 for the last 23 chances and 1 for the last 25.
The game was televised nationally today on the NHL Network, who used the Sharks broadcast of the game allowing viewers to hear Randy Hahn’s and Drew Remenda’s call of the game. To make room on the roster for Burns, Matt Irwin was sent down to Worcester. He should be called up again later in the season. Also, Nick Petrecki was placed on waivers by the Sharks today. As for the game, there is not much else to say about this one…
Next Game- The Sharks take to the road to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in Ohio’s capital city late Monday afternoon (4pm Pacific Time, 7pm in Columbus). The game will be carried by CSN California, Centre Ice, and the Sharks Radio Network…
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