Another Sour Blue Note- Chris Stewart’s two goals combined with rookie net minder Jake Allen’s 39 saves Tuesday night led the St Louis Blues to their second victory in four days over the San Jose Sharks, 4-2. The Sharks with the loss (counting over time losses and shootout losses) have now dropped 14 of their last 18 decisions as their season seemingly is just another step closer to fading away into oblivion. The Sharks defensively held the Blues to just 20 shots on goal, however St Louis made the most of their opportunities. Team teal’s goals came from Dan Boyle on a late power play in the third period, and Brent Burns first goal of the year in the second period. The Sharks now head back home for a date with the defending champion Los Angeles Kings in the first of two meetings over the next three days. The Sharks have reached a point in this abbreviated season where their failure to gain points in the standings has been costly. Continued failures will likely place team teal out of position to make any kind of serious post season run (if they make the post season at all).
The good news for the Sharks that for the most part they played about as hard as they have all season. The loss was not born out of a lack of effort and may have been just more bad luck than anything else. However the Sharks for some reason have either collectively become the unluckiest team in the NHL or have become a team who’s best days as they are constructed now have passed about two years ago. The Sharks in their last 18 games have only scored three goals twice, and have been held to one or two goals in 14 of their last 18. As far as the Pacific Division is concerned, with Anaheim winning in Minnesota Tuesday evening the division crown seems fairly well out of reach at this point even if the Ducks hit some sort of a slump. As for the Western Conference, the Sharks currently sit 28 points but have fallen to ninth place based on tie breakers. The Sharks will have quite the challenge ahead of them in the second half of the season just to somehow find a way to reach the post season.
Quiet Aggression- The 2013 edition of the San Jose Sharks if nothing else this season have at least done one thing they could not do all of last season, skate and reasonably keep up with the St Louis Blues. Though the Blues have the better team, the Sharks at least have given St Louis some hard battles this year and have made the Blues earn their wins. The Sharks stayed with the Blues throughout the opening period and even outshot St Louis 9-7. The only goal of the period came when an errant pass in the neutral zone from Boyle was taken by the Blues’ David Backes, who fed the puck over the Stewart as he skated by. Stewart then took the puck up the right point before drilling a shot that beat Sharks goalie Antti Niemi to give the Blues the first goal of the game. Other than this play the Sharks were almost error free. However as things have played out so far this season it’s the Sharks smaller mistakes which seem to get capitalized on the most.
The Sharks Season Summed Up In One Period- The second period in the Gateway City of St Louis may be one of the best single periods to sum up how the Sharks season has gone up until now. The Sharks were aggressors again and had a number of good scoring chances. To be fair some of the credit must go the St Louis Goalie Allen who made 18 saves for the period staring down a lot of hard rushes from team teal. Matt Irwin and Logan Couture had some good looks at the net however both were turned away by Allen. There was no question that the Sharks seemed to have the better of the momentum going however were just unable to capitalize. Later in the period after the Sharks had more opportunities turned aside the Blues got a breakaway with the puck down ice when David Perron would feed the pass over to teammate Patrik Burglund. At the right point Burglund would wrist a shot that would hit Niemi’s leg pads and bounced over to the left where Perron was stationed. Perron pounced on the juicy rebound and drilled the puck past Niemi to give the Blues a two goal lead. This was only seconds were the Sharks bad pelted Allen with continuous scoring chances only to see a final shot hit off of the lower post.
With the Blues seemingly ready to take control of the game the Sharks would get back on their attack knowing they now needed to make something happen, and it only took 62 seconds for the Sharks to respond back. Burns in the right slot took a feed pass from Scott Gomez and then drilled a slapshot that beat Allen five hole. The Sharks were back within 2-1 and were in position to make a game of it. The Sharks would continue to apply the pressure but had no more luck after Burns’ score. With just seconds remaining in the middle period the Blues had one final chance on an odd man rush where Barret Jackman took the puck near center ice and skated with it until he took a shot on goal that Niemi saved. However again, another big rebound from Niemi’s leg pads went straight over to Chris Porter who drilled it into the net to give the Blues a 3-1 lead with just 6.8 seconds remaining in the middle period. The third Blues goal looked almost eerily similar to their second goal.
A Hard Finish- Nothing has come easy for the Sharks at the Scottrade Center over the last couple of seasons. The final period would if anything just prove to be more difficult for the Sharks than the second. The Sharks would again statistically own a period however despite the dominance just could not seemingly do enough to get themselves back in the contest. Allen continued to battle team teal which seemingly had little problem in generating scoring chances. The Sharks with any luck may have been able to get a few of these shots on goal to go in however could not. It would take until later in the period when the Sharks would get a 54 second five on three man advantage after Blues penalties to Barret Jackman and former Shark Scott Nichol. When on the two man advantage, it only took the Sharks three seconds to score as Dan Boyle ripped a slap shot past Allen to bring team teal to within one at 3-2 after team teal won the faceoff. The Sharks would have 1:57 remaining of power play time afterward however would end up doing nothing more with it. With 1:16 remaining in the contest Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan would make a fateful decision to pull Niemi early for an extra attacker. The Sharks made the mistake of not waiting until the puck was securely in the Blues zone. Instead, the Sharks never even got past center ice as a turnover to Stewart allowed him a free goal on a 90 foot slap shot. The Sharks outshot the Blues 13-4 here and 41-20 for the game, but that just as with the majority of statistics only serve to illustrate to frustration level one team experiences while the other team goes on to win.
Shark Bytes- The three stars of the game were all members of the St Louis Blues. The number three star was Chris Porter, the number two star was Chris Stewart. The top star of the game was Jake Allen who made 39 saves. The Sharks head home for a date Thursday evening with the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, who will be making their first appearance at the Shark Tank since last season’s regular season finale. The Kings have been a bit of a streaky team this season however possess a number of the players on the roster who were responsible for the Kings’ first title in franchise history. With the second half of March starting up, much of what happens over the next two weeks worth of games will pretty much decide whether or not the Sharks can play with the big dogs or if they will be “also rans”.
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