San Jose Sharks Get a Must-Need Victory in Edmonton
The San Jose Sharks entered Monday night's contest with the 11th seed in the Western Conference. It was a very unfamiliar position for the reigning Pacific Division champions, and even more nerve wracking for the club's fans.
The Sharks took the ice trying to find a solution to the teams lack of goal scoring, and more importantly, figuring out how to return to their winning ways.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan shuffled the lines a little bit, and finally might have found some consistency in the roster.
Is Niemi Returning to Form?
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Even with losses in the past two contests, Sharks goaltender did nothing but reaffirm that he's returning to form with his performance against the Oilers on Monday night.
Niemi relinquished his teams lead twice on Monday, but they were from laser shots that found the goaltender in almost perfect position. The goals scored by Ryan Whitney and Taylor Hall were virtually unstoppable.
One of the large differences, was the help Niemi had in front of him tonight. The Sharks transition out of the defensive zone wasn't spectacular, but it was enough to allow Niemi to stay in good position, see the puck and do his job.
Whatever has been haunting Niemi all season appears to be leaving as the postseason draws closer, and it's safe to assume that the workhorse Sharks fans are used to having in their crease is returning.
Third and Fourth Line Success
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The Sharks have had issues with consistency in their bottom six pairings for some time now.
Again, despite the five-game skid the Sharks were faced with, their third and fourth lines have become the team's performers while the top six have basically been extinct.
One of those players is Torrey Mitchell, who added his third goal in five games by scoring the opener on Monday.
It's no surprise that Mitchell has stepped up his game, since he's due for a new contract when the season ends.
The Sharks third and fourth lines need to remain strong if San Jose wants to see a deep run in the postseason.
Mixing Up the Lines
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Sharks head coach Todd McLellan mixed up his forward lines again on Monday night, saying he was "trying to find some goals, trying to continue with good defensive play." He moved Marleau from left wing to center with Ryane Clowe and Daniel Winnik on the wings and that put Couture on a line with Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
The changes at least appeared to be fruitful, for the time being. The performance wasn't dominant, and won't convince Sharks fans that the battle has been won, as they still lie beneath the line dividing teams from cleaning out their lockers, and punching their cards for the postseason.
One Win at a Time
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While the Sharks victory on Monday night offers a sigh of relief, the players can't afford to take a single break, as there are only 14 games remaining in the season.
The two points the Sharks picked up on Monday were very important, but on Tuesday they head across the pond to Calgary for their second game in as many days. And it's against an opponent who they are battling for playoff position with.
Calgary has spent a few seasons away from the playoffs, and will be taking no prisoners when they take the ice Tuesday night.
It's absolutely crucial the Sharks win at least 12 more games this season, starting in Calgary.