The San Jose Sharks have no time to slack off with All-Star Game festivities at a close. A matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks is the perfect test after an extended break. In what could be a preview of a future playoff series, San Jose cannot afford to fall behind early against Chicago.
San Jose is tied with Edmonton for first place in the Pacific Division. Separation appears unlikely as both teams, along with Anaheim, will jockey for the top three spots. The Sharks will look to stay hot after going 6-1 before the break. Along with staying on top of the division, the offense and power play need to find consistency before the playoffs.
Given the talent accumulated through draft picks and free agency, the Sharks’ boast a potent lineup filled with scoring threats – on paper. However, a few players have been disappointing since the start of the season. Their presence would provide a boost down the stretch. Here are some Sharks who need to step up their game.
Boedker Still Searching for His Role
The former first-round pick appeared to have turned the page after recording a hat trick against the Oilers on the road. Since the outburst, Boedker has just five assists but is currently on a three-game point streak. Despite not living up to expectations so far this season, the best is still to come from the Danish native.
I have noted Boedker’s struggles from recent articles and perhaps being a trade piece to acquire a backup goaltender. With the current identity crisis Boedker is facing, inserting the winger on the fourth line may be his calling. After being a healthy scratch, Boedker skated on the fourth line where he recorded an assist against Detroit. His performance improved as he used his speed to drive towards the net and puts shots on net.
Whether Doug Wilson is feeling buyer’s remorse or not, Boedker was a great offseason signing to add more offense to an already lethal scoring team. Boedker certainly will be an x-factor for the Sharks in the playoffs. He can certainly prove his worth by lighting the lamp in the second half.
Donskoi Needs Out of Sophomore Slump
A surprise addition last season out of training camp, Joonas Donskoi has not made the impact he did in his rookie season. The winger has only 15 points in 44 games this season and could fall short of his total 36 points from last season. Perhaps the break came at a good time for the Finnish native to take a breather.
Donskoi needs to find his scoring touch from when he made the Sharks’ lineup last season. His speed and a nifty set of hands can indeed create scoring chances and second opportunities off rebounds. He will most likely serve on the third line and be on the Sharks’ second power-play unit.
For now, Donskoi will be taking one shift at a time as he tries to break out of his sophomore slump. Should he put together a streak of consistent efforts, he could eclipse the 36-point total from last season.
Marleau Stays Consistent After Milestone
The former Sharks’ captain is reaching a career milestone with just two goals shy of reaching 500. After scoring four goals in the third period against Colorado, Sharks fans and Marleau are eagerly waiting for the moment. To accomplish the feat with the team who originally drafted Marleau is impressive and shows his dedication to the sport and the Sharks.
While Marleau’s accomplishment will be cause for celebration when he hits the mark, hope is he will not drop off the rest of the season. Throughout the past, criticism has pointed towards Marleau after early exits in the playoffs. Veteran leaders often shouldered the blame for the failures but not as heavy from the criticisms taken by Marleau.
Marleau has plenty of motivation to deliver after falling short of the Stanley Cup last season. San Jose means a lot to Marleau, and he wants to lift the Cup for Sharks fans who have supported him throughout his career. He needs to keep his scoring touch while helping on the power play. Joe Pavelski may be the captain, but Marleau is the heart and soul of the San Jose Sharks.
Dell’s Decisive Moment
With the trade deadline about a month away, Wilson still has one more decision to make. Many feel Martin Jones is playing too many games and will wear out come playoffs. In the games Aaron Dell has played this season, he certainly has passed the test to get more starts. Dell has played aggressively in net and has looked poised even with scrambles around the net. Despite the goals he has allowed this season, Dell has not appeared rattled.
Dell may not get many opportunities before the trade deadline. His next start might come on the road against Philadelphia as San Jose plays New Jersey the following day. When he does get the call, pressure will be on him to perform.
Regardless of the decision, Dell has played admirably in net and should be Jones’ backup the rest of the season. The market for a backup goalie is not great and not worth the price of gambling away the future for rental reserves.