The San Jose Sharks opened one entire week in the middle of March out of the playoff picture (even if the more accurate point percentage is used) for the first time since missing the playoffs in 2003. But they hosted the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday for a chance to replace them in the top eight.
Phoenix was without Radim Vrbata and captain Shane Doan, two of only four forwards who would make the second line of the San Jose Sharks. San Jose was healthy, getting Tommy Wingels, Michal Handzus and, most importantly, Martin Havlat back from injury.
Havlat was an instant success, with three consecutive two-point games in the middle of his five games back. His added speed, creativity and scoring have made San Jose dangerous again. The Sharks beat certain playoff teams from Detroit, Nashville and Boston, whose high-powered attacks scored just four goals total.
The problem is, in the other two losses they gave up nine excluding the empty netter. And that is the Sharks in a nutshell.
They showed how they could play against Boston. The team they were that night would have already locked up the President's Trophy and be on its way to a Stanley Cup.
But they showed how they could play against Anaheim, a team with nothing but pride to play for. The Sharks looked like they had none of that in frittering away a chance to take the division lead.
With Havlat scoring two points.
What Martin Havlat gives this team is enough talent to overcome a sloppy game like the one they had against Phoenix.
Two of their three goals were passes from behind the net right to the tape of someone crashing the net. How is Antti Niemi supposed to stop something he cannot turn his head in time to see?
One was also half-a-second before the end of the period. The Sharks dominated the rest of the game, attempting 85 shots to 40 for the Coyotes, but they got just five more on net because Phoenix was blocking so many shots (28-10) that San Jose missed the net (25-3) frequently, attempting tip-ins.
Unfortunately, a couple players taking those two shifts and the one that starts the next period off forced the Sharks into overtime. Phoenix got the point that keeps them ahead in the official standings, though they have played two more games.
And Martin Havlat was on the ice for two of those goals.
So if you are counting on Havlat to make this team into a Stanley Cup contender, you are on thin ice. But he can help keep them alive until they can find the motivation to play the way they are supposed to all 60 minutes of every game.
That team has a real chance to be champions if they can find it. Their next opportunity is Monday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche.
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