The first Eastern Conference road trip of the 2016-17 NHL season is an epic fail for the San Jose Sharks after losing their last game at Joe Louis Arena…
The San Jose Sharks were shutout in their last game ever at Joe Louis Arena Saturday, Oct. 22. That left them a disappointing 2-3-0 on their first Eastern Conference road trip of the 2016-17 NHL season.
The Sharks finished with just a dozen wins in 43 games at the Joe. However, they were 10-4-1 in their previous 15 games on the iconic rink before Saturday. They reversed their narrative with the Detroit Red Wings in the process.
San Jose lost to Detroit in the second round of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs after being just 34 seconds away from going up 3-1. However, the results were very different when the teams met in the same round in 2010 and 2011.
The Sharks won eight of 12 playoff games in those two Western Conference semifinals. Detroit Hockey details the Red Wings losing 10 of the next 13 head-to-head regular season games through 2013-14.
None of that helped San Jose Saturday. Neither did being the best road team during the 2015-16 NHL season.
It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game…
Vince Lombardi is often known for saying, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” However, his less famous quote dealing with the quality of play is more appropriate with so much of the 2016-17 NHL season to play.
No one expects the Sharks to be a record-setting road team every year. Autumn is the time for establishing the “details and habits” broadcast commentator Jamie Baker is fond of mentioning.
Instead, San Jose’s has lacked scoring, defensive responsibility and strong finishes so far. Moreover, the New York Islanders were the only good team beaten on the first Eastern Conference road trip.
Even the perennial cellar-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets came back to score two goals in the final frame. The margin in that game turned out to be an empty-net goal—hardly inspired play.
In fact, the only game on the road trip to featured a strong third period by the Sharks was Monday against the New York Rangers. Unfortunately, they entered that stanza with a 3-1 deficit and thus still lost.
San Jose gave up 17 goals in the five games—all in regulation. All three losses featured three or more goals allowed. Even the two wins both featured two goals allowed in a single period.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have failed to beat a goalie more than twice in four of their six games this 2016-17 NHL season. They have scored just 14 goals overall (2.33 per game). That is not going to qualify them for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Turning it around…
The biggest weakness in San Jose’s game was once its strength. The second-best faceoff team in the league under the last two coaches (Todd McLellan starting with the 2008-09 NHL season through Peter DeBoer last year) is dead last so far in October. That especially hurts puck-possession teams.
Fortunately, there are 76 games left to correct these issues. There will also be practice time to work on them. That was not an option for the Sharks during the Eastern Conference road trip.
It will take a return to the workmanlike play San Jose rode to the Stanley Cup finals to get back. The four-time Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks Tuesday provide the perfect opportunity to rediscover the winning formula.