Defense is a non-issue for the San Jose Sharks having one of the top defenses in the league. Throughout the season, though, the Sharks’ offense has been sporadic at times. As the regular season enters the final stretch, offensive production has once again become an issue. A current four-game skid has seen the Sharks’ once comfortable lead in the Pacific Division dwindle.
San Jose combined for two goals against the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues. Before the matchup against Minnesota, backup goaltender Aaron Dell stood tall against Dallas, but San Jose came out at the wrong end of a 1-0 shutout loss. Goal scoring did not appear to be a problem before the losing streak as the team combined for nine goals against the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres at home.
Against the Minnesota Wild, the offensive slump seemed to reach a possible end after David Schlemko tied the game late in the second period. The ensuing madness which came after the goal was back-breaking. Martin Hanzal and Charlie Coyle scored 15 seconds apart in what turned out to be a wild end to the second period. Patrick Marleau responded 15 seconds after Coyle’s goal to get the Sharks within one. But the Wild buckled down in the third to win.
Head coach Peter DeBoer is nowhere near pressing the panic button on the current situation as the team has played sound hockey defensively. Anchored by leading Norris Trophy candidate Brent Burns, San Jose boasts a talented defensive corps which has carried the team throughout the season. Paul Martin and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have been reliable in keeping pucks in the offensive zone and getting back on defense to break up attacks. Also, Martin Jones and Dell have provided steady goaltending to bail the team out at times.
Depth Scorers Not Making a Mark
A roster with offensive prowess on all four lines, only four players have scored 20 or more goals for the Sharks. Due to a lack of scoring from the Sharks’ depth players, the statistic puts the team last place in the category. No other player is close to reaching the 20-goal mark with Mikkel Boedker and Melker Karlsson each with nine goals.
Tomas Hertl has struggled to make an impact since coming back from a knee injury. He only has 18 points on the season with eight goals. After making an impression in training camp, Kevin Labanc made an immediate impact when called up by the Sharks. The San Jose Barracuda is his current team as Labanc struggled to find his offensive rhythm.
Jannik Hansen looked to be the solution on the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski after being acquired from the Vancouver Canucks. Before Hansen’s arrival, DeBoer had been juggling with different players on the top line with no avail. Hansen was also the player to provide offensive consistency but has only one point in six games played. He recently suffered an injury and has been out of the lineup.
Boedker, Ward Need to Show Up
The Pacific Division race may have tightened up again with the recent slide by the Sharks but are in good shape when the playoffs arrive. Issues needing to be addressed will be scoring at even strength and the power play.
Both Boedker and Joel Ward have had disappointing seasons thus far in teal. As the playoffs loom, both will need to turn the corner and step up on the big stage. Boedker had only shown brief flashes of his capabilities but not on a constant basis as expected when he signed in San Jose. Ward has played better in recent games but needs to elevate his play come postseason.
With the expansion draft approaching, Hansen’s arrival certainly makes general manager Doug Wilson’s decisions on which players to expose interesting. Hansen will remain next season as he one more year left on his current deal. Chances are both Boedker and Ward could be available and will find themselves in Vegas. The loss of Boedker can be absorbed given the players on the Barracuda. Ward could be a tough one with the veteran presence he provides in the locker room and a fan favorite in San Jose.