San Jose Sharks Put Four-Game Streak on Line vs. Anaheim Ducks

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIDecember 26, 2011

Ryane Clowe was my first star of the game with an assist and the only shootout goal
Ryane Clowe was my first star of the game with an assist and the only shootout goalThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The streaky San Jose Sharks are up again.

After starting the season 1-3, they tore off five straight wins on the road. They carried that forward, going into Thanksgiving on a 12-2-1 tear.

Then they went 2-5 in their next seven and dropped the next two in a shootout and in overtime.

As it turns out, those losses that got points in the standings were the beginning of a turnaround. They have now won four games in a row to regain the Pacific Division lead.

Except that none of the four wins and even the shootout loss were against teams that are not projected to make the playoffs. The Sharks have beaten only one projected playoff team (Dallas) since Thanksgiving.

Good thing they are playing another struggling team, the Anaheim Ducks, Monday. Coach Randy Carlyle was fired and replaced with the recently fired Bruce Boudreau earlier this month.

The change of coaches has not changed their fortunes, as they are 2-6-2 since his arrival. They come into HP Pavilion riding a franchise-worst 13-game road losing streak.

It will be the second rival in a row the Sharks have faced with a new man behind the bench. Friday, they took care of the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in a shootout.

The reality is the Kings' one goal should not have been. Logan Couture was called for interference when two skaters crossed paths, and the resulting power play goal tied the game. It also ended a streak of 10 consecutive penalties killed after the Sharks had killed their only other penalty in the first period.

The Sharks also saw their recently rediscovered power play fail them all five times. Their only goal came from Couture on a beautiful play: Patrick Marleau dug the puck out behind the goal line to Ryane Clowe on the half boards, who found Couture in the slot for the one-timer.

The main thing for Todd McLellan was that the effort was there. The Sharks had a higher ratio of blocked shots (20) to attempts (61) and shots on goal (29) than the Kings did (24 vs. 76 and 35).

San Jose struggled in the faceoff circle (25-27) but had more takeaways (11-8) and the same number of giveaways (eight). Of course, they were out-hit 28-18 for the game.

Similar to the under-achieving Kings, the Ducks have a much more dangerous level of talent than their record indicates. The Sharks will know better than to overlook them.

However, on paper this appears to be a blowout.

While Anaheim's power play is just three percentage points behind San Jose's and their penalty kill is 82 points better, the Sharks are much better five-on-five. San Jose is 64 points better in the faceoff circle, scores better than a half goal more and gives up almost a full goal less per game.

If the Sharks are going to be ready for the Vancouver Canucks to end the homestand Wednesday, they need to prove it by beating Anaheim by more than a goal.