The San Jose Sharks traveled to the province of Alberta, Canada, on the heels of a two-game losing streak. They had given up four goals in each game and scored a total of four between them.
In 72 shots in Edmonton and Calgary, they were able to muster just two goals. Fortunately, the Oilers and Flames, respectively, are not playoff teams and scored only one goal in regulation between them. The Sharks will gladly take three points and go into the All-Star break as division leaders by two points.
However, they will need to start scoring if they are going to get anywhere this spring. The Sharks have scored more than three goals just twice in 16 games since their 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 21, with just 34 goals in regulation and overtime over that span.
Some of this will be helped by the return of Brent Burns, but he missed only Tuesday's game and could miss more time. Similarly, Ryane Clowe has missed only the last five games, but the team has struggled even more without him (seven goals in regulation).
Could their return and that of Martin Havlat, who has 15 points in 26 games, be enough? The Sharks cannot be sure when Havlat will return from his knee injury, and he has hardly been reliable either to be in the lineup or to play well.
If he is on pace for a return, that buys the Sharks time before needing to make a trade until they see if he provides them with what they need. With the NHL trade deadline not until February 27, general manager Doug Wilson can afford to wait to see where his team stands then.
With the Sharks penalty kill apparently on the mend (36 of its last 41—87.8 percent) and James Sheppard eventually expected to bolster it, the lack of scoring is the only concern. In addition to the above struggles, the Sharks power play has plummeted from the top fifth to the bottom half of the league.
If the injured players are healthy and productive, the Sharks may only need depth as an insurance policy. They have enough expendable assets to ensure that, and have been perfecting other aspects of their game during the scoring drought.
By winning the faceoff battle in both games in Alberta, they had more opportunities for giveaways and fewer for hits and takeaways. However, the Sharks matched their foes in hits and were plus-9 in giveaway-takeaway differential.
They also had far more shots attempted (125-98), and on goal (72-43), than their 13 extra possessions would indicate. Despite this, they had far more blocked shots than their opponents (36-19).
That will win you a lot of games against inferior teams. But if the scoring problem is not fixed by the return of Burns, Clowe and Havlat, it will not get the team deep in the playoffs.
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