San Jose Sharks Look to Bounce Back from Flat Performance vs. Phoenix Coyotes

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San Jose Sharks Look to Bounce Back from Flat Performance vs. Phoenix Coyotes
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Brent Burns is a disappointing minus-one with six points so far this season

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan himself said that in an 82-game schedule, even the best teams have five to seven games you can just throw out.

But he did not think Saturday's 3-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes was one of them. That is a little scary.

You mean to tell me that there will be at least five games worse than this one? That is unacceptable for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

The coaches have harped on a 60-minute game that the Sharks have lacked since the last coaching staff. Yet they showed up late to the game, being outshot 11-5 and outscored 2-0 in the first period.

All three scores were avoidable.

The first bounced off the boards, and Phoenix seemed more prepared to deal with it than San Jose. Ever see that happen to the Detroit Red Wings? Think it might happen to the Sharks again with them coming in Thursday?

The second was a weak goal that slipped under the pad of backup Thomas Greiss, who then said he kicked it in when trying to recover. But he also did not get enough support from Dan Boyle, who also took the blame on that one.

As David Pollak of San Jose Mercury News pointed out, the third-period goal was another blue-line breakdown. Both of the Sharks' high-paid, elite defencemen (Boyle and Brent Burns) were on the ice, but neither was anywhere near the crease when the puck went in.

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There were some good things to take away from this game: San Jose went hit-for-hit with Phoenix and once again had more blocked shots despite the Sharks' opponents attempting fewer.

But they were beaten in the faceoff circle (last year's second-best team is now ninth, right behind Detroit) and lost a whopping 19 more possessions than their guests because of giveaways.

 

The good news is that with goalie Mike Smith's 31-save shutout, that included repelling some great scoring chances, San Jose was not walking out with two points in this game anyway. If you are going to play badly on defence, do it on a day when you could not score.

No matter how good he and his team looked, by April, the bankrupt and nearly starless Desert Dogs have a snowball's chance in Phoenix of competing with the Sharks for playoff positioning.

The Sharks need their best performance Thursday for a Detroit team that is the reverse—struggling now but bound to be a threat by the time all is said and done.

Detroit is 14th in the league in point percentage—the sensible indicator of one's standings in a league with four teams who have played over 25 percent more games than the Sharks—and would be the seventh seed in the Western Conference. San Jose is ninth overall and would be the fifth seed.

San Jose won this season's only other contest in Detroit, 4-2. Remarkably, Detroit is in the bottom half of the league (18th) in scoring at 2.69 goals per game. The Sharks rank 12th at 2.80.

However, Detroit is getting fantastic goaltending from Jimmy Howard (8-4-1, 1.69 GAA, .935 save pct.) to rank fifth in defence (2.19 GAA) overall. San Jose ranks only 13th (2.60) despite leading the league in shot differential.

The Sharks have the fourth-best power play in the league at 21.6 percent. Ironically, not one of the three teams in front of them have a winning record, while five of the bottom eight power play teams do; Detroit is in the bottom third of the league for the first time in probably 15-plus years.

Meanwhile, only two teams are faring worse on the penalty kill than San Jose, and Detroit ranks only two spots better. The team that stays out of the box wins this game.

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