A three-game losing streak did not seem to be in the cards early in the season for the San Jose Sharks. For head coach Peter DeBoer, he can play any hand given the talent on the Sharks’ roster. Instead, he finds his side lacking bite in finding the back of the net. After three disappointing results, San Jose now embarks on a six-game road trip. The season may be still early, but the Sharks enter a pivotal stretch where confidence offensively has been lacking.
Currently, San Jose sits 27th in the league averaging 2.3 goals per game. With the top lines consisting of stars Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Mikkel Boedker, goal production did not appear to be an issue from the start. While Pavelski currently leads the team in points (4 goals, 8 assists), Couture and Boedker have not been offensively consistent. Boedker may have gotten his second goal last week against the Arizona Coyotes but his lack of production early raises eyebrows. He has the skills to light the lamp, but Sharks management did not expect a slow start.
Given the offensive struggles, some observations of San Jose’s play need to be looked at to get the whole picture. First, compete level has been a concern, especially on the road. Go back to the Sharks’ last road trip with their final two games against Pittsburgh and Detroit. San Jose controlled all aspects of the game against Pittsburgh — for only 40 minutes — the result was a frustrating 3-2 defeat. In Detroit, the compete level never showed up where the Red Wings’ speedy forwards capitalized on the sluggish Sharks.
Second, the quick goals scored by opponents on San Jose left the team stunned. In games against Arizona and Calgary, both scored two goals in under two minutes, seizing the momentum San Jose controlled. Despite the Sharks coming at the wrong end of the scoreboard, do not let stats indicate how the team is playing on the ice.
My Observations Against Pittsburgh
I got the opportunity to attend San Jose’s matchup at home against Pittsburgh. Although the Sharks were down 2-0 after one period, their play deserved better. San Jose jumped all over Pittsburgh, creating chances around the net. Matt Murray came up big for the Penguins as the Sharks appeared destined to strike first. From what I saw, Murray did not look comfortable in net as he gave up rebounds the Sharks were unable to capitalize on.
Whatever the message DeBoer gave his team during the first intermission took only 13 seconds of the second period to go out the door. Sidney Crosby potted his second of the night, chasing Martin Jones from the net. Pittsburgh would add two more goals against Aaron Dell, including a short-handed goal on a nice feed from Trevor Daley to Nick Bonino. The Sharks suffered their first shutout at home 5-0 to the displeasure of remaining fans at the game.
In the end, the Sharks outshot Pittsburgh 32-25, but the chances after the first period were not threatening. From what I observed, I am not concerned about the Sharks lack of offense. The quality of scoring opportunities concerns me.
Fixing the Problems for Better Offense
If the Sharks do not want to be floundering throughout the road trip, scoring chances must yield positive results. From what I saw against Pittsburgh, most of San Jose’s scoring chances came from around the perimeter. The Sharks were unable to get to the center, firing shots from the point hoping for a deflection. Most opportunities were either blocked or the Penguins defense boxed out the Sharks’ forwards to prevent second chances off rebounds.
Too much passing on the power play will not lead to results. Yes, San Jose may be ranked 12th overall, but has contributed to the Sharks recent offensive struggles. Joe Thornton is a great passer, but perhaps passing one into the net could be beneficial. For a player currently passing greats on the NHL scoring list, Thornton has a deadly shot when he wants to shoot. However, forcing unnecessary passes result in wasted opportunities. Sometimes, Thornton just needs to stop with the obvious and fire one on net.
DeBoer: “We’ve got some guys that are not at the levels they need to be at yet. It’s early, but it’s time.” #SJSharks
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzCSN) November 6, 2016
Jones does not deserve the blame for the Sharks’ current losing streak. His play has dipped a bit and he understands the expectations after last season. While he wishes to have a few goals back, Jones must step up as the Sharks try to shake off their lack of offensive production. Signs point to Jones starting most games. Dell should see some action as he still needs to show the coaches he can handle backup duties.
Attendance at the Shark Tank
To not see the SAP Center packed Saturday night against Pittsburgh was disappointing, although I do believe the fan base is revitalized after a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Against the Penguins, there were plenty of empty seats to pick out in the upper bowl where I sat for the game.
Attendance will continue to suffer even if a sellout is announced. With the growth of the Bay Area, traffic during the week makes going to San Jose difficult. Also, the Golden State Warriors playing at home on the same night also can make attendance suffer at the Shark Tank. In any case, I expect attendance to improve the rest of the season.
Last road trip, the Sharks unsuccessfully made an early statement going 2-3 away from the Shark Tank. Perhaps a road trip covering over 6,000 miles may find answers to San Jose’s struggling offense. With only 12 games into the season, the panic button should not exist in this current slide.