San Jose Sharks Fail to Play 60 Minutes Again, Fall to Chicago Blackhawks

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IIDecember 12, 2011

Antti Niemi has to wonder when he will get consistent goal support again
Antti Niemi has to wonder when he will get consistent goal support againHarry How/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks did it again. They controlled most of the game but could not get the two points.

They absolutely dominated the Chicago Blackhawks out of the gate on Sunday, with 17 shots to Chicago's eight in the first period. Jamie McGinn scored his fourth goal in the six games in December to give his team a 1-0 lead.

To the Sharks' credit, they kept up the pressure in the second period. Despite killing off a penalty early, San Jose registered six of the first eight shots and seven of the first 12 attempts. Even when Chicago scored on their next shot, it took Justin Braun less than two minutes to give his team the lead again.

Braun was all over the place in the game, sometimes appearing to be playing both forward and the blue line. He earned more than 20 minutes of ice time and finished plus-one with the goal on two shots (three attempts) as well as a hit and a blocked shot.

San Jose finished the period with a 31-13 edge in shots on goal, but just a 2-1 lead. Then they once again let their foot off the gas, being out-shot 21-4 in the third period and overtime.

For the game, the Sharks still out-shot Chicago 37-34. And while that is not the only measure of effort, the others were split—San Jose had three more blocks (14-11) and were plus-one in the giveaway/takeaway differential, while Chicago won more faceoffs and had more hits (both 34-28).

Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, who started Sunday's game in Chicago less than 21 hours after finishing one in St. Louis, kept his former team from scoring until 1:06 remained and Ray Emery was pulled. The Sharks escaped with a point but were defeated by an overtime shot with less than a minute left on the clock.

This leaves San Jose 2-5-1 over their last eight games. While the Sharks' penalty killing was successful all three times against the Blackhawks, the team failed to score on both of its power plays on Sunday and has only one power-play goal over the eight-game stretch.

This will have to be cleared up when the team visits Denver on Tuesday. Despite their slide, the Sharks are five points above .500 while the Colorado Avalanche are three below and have lost three in a row.

However, the teams are not even that close on paper.

The Avs score fewer goals than all but seven teams (2.47) in the league, even though they are fifth on the power play (20 percent). They also give up the 10th most goals per game (3.03), and only five teams are worse on the penalty kill (79.3 percent).

The Sharks are one of the five teams that rank worse on the penalty kill (75.3), but they are still seventh defensively at 2.37 goals allowed per game because they seldom are short-handed. However, with their offensive struggles (18 goals in last nine games), the power play has dropped to 15th (17.5 percent) and the scoring overall to 14th (2.67).

Still, the Sharks can render the struggles of the last nine games all but meaningless with a few positive results. A win and a Dallas Stars loss (even in overtime) Tuesday would give San Jose sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.