A road trip which began with a nice win for the San Jose Sharks took a bad turn when it swung through the Southeast. And it’s not getting any easier as the team heads for Tampa Bay.
The Sharks blew a lead and suffered a 5-4 overtime loss against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 29, and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 the next day. The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning hosts San Jose on Feb. 1, and the Sharks are apparently playing this trip with one goalie they trust in the net.
So far, the Sharks have earned three points in three games on this road trip, which isn’t terrible. But it could be better.
Sharks Could Have Had Undefeated Weekend
If San Jose missed the postseason by a couple of points, remember this weekend. They had one game they could have won, and one they should have won.
Let’s start with the “should have won” entry. The Sharks had a two-goal advantage on three different occasions against the Panthers, but allowed the game to get to overtime. Sam Bennett scored 1:08 into the extra period to give Florida the win. Coming off an impressive win in Washington a few days earlier, beating the Panthers would have really boosted the Sharks’ momentum.
To be fair, San Jose did catch a bad break when top-line defenseman Mario Ferraro blocked a shot with his mouth early in the first period, leaving the game and not returning. Despite losing Ferraro, The Sharks went into the third period with a 3-1 lead but couldn’t hold it, wasting outstanding performances by Jonathan Dahlen (two goals) and Nick Bonino (two assists).
They played solid much of the way against the Hurricanes, falling behind early and tying the game in the final period on a goal by Rudolfs Balcers, his fifth of the season. For most of the third, it looked as if the Sharks would at least earn another point on the trip, but Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov scored the game-winner with 3:44 remaining.
The Sharks left the arena feeling they left at least a point, and maybe two, on the table. “Tonight’s disappointing,” Sharks forward Andrew Cogliano said. “You get it to overtime, you maybe get two points out of that game. I don’t know what else we could have done differently. I thought we played a really hard game. Unfortunately, they got the last goal right before the end.”
Sharks Keep Riding Reimer
With Adin Hill out due to a lower-body injury, it’s reasonable that James Reimer will get the majority of the time in the net. And he played very well in Carolina, making 27 saves. But playing him two days in a row is still questionable, and doesn’t show much faith in current backup goalie Zach Sawchenko.
In a normal situation, Reimer doesn’t play against the Hurricanes. Teams usually try to avoid playing goalies on back-to-back days, and Reimer had to face 50 shots versus Florida, stopping 45. If Hill is on the active roster, he clearly plays.
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Sawchenko, 24, played in one NHL game this season in relief of Reimer, stopping 20 of 21 shots in 39 minutes. He’s an experienced guy, and there’s a risk to starting him. But if Hill lingers on the injured reserve list, Sharks coach Bob Boughner will either need to give Sawchenko a shot or risk overworking the 33-year-old Reimer.
Injuries Add to Defensive Woes
He had oral surgery before the game in Carolina but did not play against the ‘Canes. The good news is that he has not been added to the injured reserve list, but the San Jose blue line is getting dangerously thin.
Erik Karlsson (upper body), Jacob Middleton (upper body) are already on the IR. The loss of Ferraro certainly hurt against the Panthers. Brent Burns logged 33:48 of ice time in Florida and 28:23 in Carolina, which is a huge workload. Ryan Merkley was activated against the Hurricanes to help out.
When everyone is healthy, the defense is the strongest part of the Sharks’ game. All things considered, the Sharks defense performed admirably against one of the NHL’s top teams. But there’s a lot of talent missing, and Boughner is being forced to mix and match his pairings. Hopefully, Ferraro will return quickly and the situation doesn’t get worse.
This past weekend in the Southeast could be considered a moral victory in some ways. But the Sharks, as beat up as they are, need to turn these games into real victories.
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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.