The San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars finally meet for the first time this season today at SAP Center, despite both playing in the Western Conference. Perhaps more strange is that the two teams wrap up their season series later this month when the Sharks hit the road and will play two games in Dallas on a single road trip.
Dallas Struggles in the Back Half
The strain of poor goaltending and uneven defensive play has been the hallmark of the season for the Stars. Former Shark Antti Niemi has been especially bad for Dallas with a 3.23 goals-against average and a sub-.900 save percentage. Kari Lehtonen has not fared much better at a .905 save percentage. Most odd is the fact that both goaltenders are nearly average or above average in high-danger save percentage, but well below average in either medium or low danger shots.
The potent offense led by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn has not been enough to cover the mistakes of the goaltending or the spotty play of the defense. Technically, the Stars are still in the chase of the Western Conference Wildcard but being 11 points out with 15 games to go, their playoff hopes are fading fast and a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators earlier this week hurt those already weak chances.
Sharks: Big Wins & Sleepy Losses
The Sharks last two games have been on opposite ends of the spectrum. They shut down Alex Ovechkin in a solid 4-2 win over the NHL-leading Washington Capitals before sleepwalking through long stretches of a rare 1 p.m. start at SAP Center in a loss to the Nashville Predators.
The Sharks are playing their second game in just over 30 hours but, after the sloppy play against Nashville, should come out with a strong effort against the Stars. That strong effort, hopefully, will include an improved performance in the face-off dot. The Predators won an impressive 64% of all draws against San Jose yesterday.
Dallas Stars at San Jose Sharks
SAP Center – 7:00 p.m. PST
Broadcast channels – CSN-CA, FS-SW
Radio: Sharks Radio Network
2016-17 Season Series:
First Game of the Season Series
San Jose Sharks – 40-20-7 (87 Points)
Home Record: 21-8-4
Hot Players: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton
Key Injuries: David Schlemko, Melker Karlsson
Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Marcus Sorensen – Chris Tierney – Micheal Haley
Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo
Dallas Stars – 27-30-9 (64 points)
Road Record: 9-18-4
Hot Players: Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin
Key Injuries: Mattias Janmark, Antoine Roussel
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza
Remi Elie – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Devin Shore – Radek Faksa – Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie – Adam Cracknell – Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis – Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak – Patrik Nemeth
Kari Lehtonen (Expected)
1)Brent Burns is still the Norris Trophy front-runner with 70 points but Erik Karlsson with 63 points is on a late charge to challenge the Sharks defenseman for the award. Burns still leads the NHL in shots on goal with 262 and is the only defender averaging better than a point per game.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 10, 2017
2)Speaking of point producing defenders, John Klingberg leads the Stars blue line with 40 points. He has a season-long six-game point streak (three goals, five assists) snapped in the Stars last game against, ironically, the Ottawa Senators.
3)The Stars arrive in San Jose having recorded points in each of its last four games against the Sharks, going 3-0-1 in that span.
4)The Sharks struggling power play ranks 23rd in the NHL but the Stars penalty kill has been terrible, killing off 73.5% of the man-advantages it has faced. On the road that falls to only 71.4%.
5)The San Jose Sharks hold a 53-49-5-13 all-time record against the Minnesota Northstars/Dallas Stars. The two clubs are intertwined as a special dispersal draft was held when the Sharks entered the league in 1991.