It is officially time to push the panic button.
After the San Jose Sharks were blown out 6-2 by the Nashville Predators, anyone thinking this team has what it takes to win a Stanley Cup is fooling themselves. Sure, four of those goals came in the first four and last two minutes of the game, but that only underscores their vulnerability.
A quick look at this link to the game recap shows that the Sharks were the better team for the other 90 percent of the game. They even had a goal disallowed because Pekka Rinne grabbed Joe Pavelski's stick after a failed shot attempt and drew the interference.
But they were so bad in those six minutes that none of it mattered. Colin White's play on the back end has been so poor that you have to wonder just how terrible once-touted prospect Nick Petrecki is to not even warrant a look while Douglas Murray is out.
Coach Todd McLellan needs to put Jim Vandermeer on the third pair and leave a forward who can score, like Benn Ferriero, in for a team lacking in bottom-six production. Then general manager Doug Wilson can see if he can get anything for White—clearly the Sharks' weakest link.
He has less than 30 hours left to make a move that will change the nature of this team.
Right now, the Sharks seem more likely to be out in the first round than be able to match their conference finals finish of the past two seasons. Then again, since the Sharks need forwards, it is fair to question the trades he has made at that position.
James Sheppard has yet to play a shift this season. Martin Havlat has just two goals and 13 assists in 26 games. Dominic Moore has an assist in three games before going down with an injury of his own.
What should the Sharks current alert level be?
Of course, when you lose eight of 11 games, the problem usually extends beyond one position. The Sharks have given up three or more goals in 10 of 11 games, with 43 goals over that stretch.
Antti Niemi was pulled for the second time in three starts and has been under a .900 save percentage in four of his last five. Because of this, either Niemi or Thomas Greiss will have to start in Minnesota under 22 hours after facing their last shot.
Like Thursday in Toronto, Minnesota is having problems of their own. They have fallen from the most points in the league to the ninth-fewest in just over two months.
Three games after their 2-1 regulation victory in San Jose December 6, they began a 6-18-6 run despite a 5-4 shootout win over the Sharks in their last visit to Minnesota. San Jose won the other matchup, 3-1.
The Wild are four points above .500 at home while the Sharks are two points above .500 on the road. San Jose is the second-best team in the faceoff circle at 52.9 percent, but Minnesota is fourth at 52.1.
The Sharks have the second-best shot differential in the league at plus-6.3 while the Wild is worst at minus-5.3. Consequently, the Sharks have the ninth-best offence (2.80 goals scored average) and 10th-best defence (2.53 goals against). Minnesota has the second-worst offence (2.12) and eighth-best defence (2.51).
San Jose is once again struggling short-handed, killing 20 of their last 28 (71.4 percent) after a goal in four tries by Nashville. One of the kills was with fewer than 30 seconds left in the game and another resulted in a goal 14 seconds after the penalty expired. They are third-worst for the season at 77.5 percent.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, no team in the league is short-handed less often than the Sharks. Moreover, the Wild power play is seventh-worst at 15.8 percent.
Still, considering only two teams have a worse scoring ratio five-on-five (.85 goals/opponent goal), while San Jose ranks sixth (1.17), they need to keep penalties to a minimum. The Sharks also have the fourth-best power play (21.2 percent) while the Wild has the 12th-ranked penalty kill (83.1).
The Sharks could move into the division lead with a win or fall a half-game behind Phoenix with a regulation loss. A Minnesota win could move them within 1.5 games of the playoffs.