There’s no defending how poorly the San Jose Sharks have played on their first road trip of 2022. They lost again on Tuesday, this time to the Detroit Red Wings, 6-2. This game was worse than their Jan. 2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. At least against the Flyers, San Jose made it a game and rallied before losing 8-5. There were bright spots against the Flyers. Not so much in Detroit.
The Red Wings didn’t just win, they scored twice on a five-minute penalty kill and owned the Sharks after the first period. Everything turned bad during what should have been a great opportunity for the Sharks.
It’s rare that a great opportunity quickly turns into a disaster. Mistakes by the Sharks led to Detroit scoring twice on a major penalty kill in the second period. The Red Wings had not scored a shorthanded goal in 100 games and 285 consecutive penalty kills.
The Sharks went on the power play with 1:44 left in the first period after Detroit forward Givanni Smith blasted Sharks defenseman Jake Middleton into the boards behind the San Jose net. Smith and Middleton exchanged punches early in the game, and the hit from behind was clearly a cheap shot that Middleton never saw coming. Middleton’s head hit the glass, and he did not finish the game. Smith was given a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding.
The Sharks, trailing 1-0 at the time, did little on the power play in the final moments of the first period, but had the intermission to regroup. However, they came out lethargic and didn’t really pressure the Red Wings, who were scrappy and fought for the puck. Their hard work paid off when Sharks defenseman Brent Burns turned over the puck in the Detroit zone to Pius Sutter, who sped away and beat Sharks goalie James Reimer for the unassisted goal.
Another turnover led to another goal as forward Tyler Bertuzzi put the Red Wings up 3-0 just 2:41 into the second period. San Jose struck back pretty quickly with a goal from forward Jasper Weatherby, but the Red Wings had control of the game.
The most concerning issue was that the Sharks seemed disorganized going into the second period. With so much time left in the power play and trailing by a goal, they should have come out flying. Instead San Jose was flat and sloppy with the puck. Sharks forward Tomas Hertl put it best: “We went into the second period with four minutes left on the power play, expecting to change the momentum in our favor, and then give up two goals. That’s embarrassing.”
Reimer Rocked Again
The loss wasn’t Reimer’s fault. He had little chance against Sutter’s shorthanded goal and the Sharks’ defense wasn’t very good. But there’s reason for concern after Reimer seemed to have established himself as the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender just a few weeks ago. He does not look like the same goalie who had a 1.99 goals-against average four games ago, and the team can hope this is just a slump.
For the second game in a row, Reimer started but did not finish. He allowed four goals on 24 shots in two periods and was replaced in the third by Adin Hill, who returned from COVID-19 protocol and a brief trip to the Barracuda of the AHL for conditioning – Reimer was also replaced after giving up six goals in a period against Philadelphia. Hill wasn’t great either, giving up two goals on seven shots. Reimer is still San Jose’s best option in the crease, but the last few games must be making management nervous.
Embattled Blue Line
Middleton was able to get up and leave the ice on his own, which is good news for a defense that is trying to hold it together. The Sharks are already without Mario Ferraro, who is on the COVID protocol list. Against Detroit, Jaycob Megna was activated and paired with Burns. Middleton’s status is still unknown, but the team will need to dip into their minor league roster if Middleton misses any games. Forwards Logan Couture and Lane Pederson have also been added to the COVID list.
The hope is that those players return quickly and Middleton is OK. The Sharks, who have yielded 28 goals in the past five games, could use some good news.
Scott Linesburgh has been a sports writer for 35 years, and has spent more than 15 years as a pro hockey beat writer. He has covered some of the biggest sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Indianapolis 500. A native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up as an Islander fan, Scott cover the San Jose Sharks for THW, and is always looking for the stories beyond the box scores.