Another week, another dismal showing for the San Jose Sharks. After three more losses, the Sharks dropped to 4-10-1, the second-worst record in the NHL. This puts them just two points ahead of the Ottawa Senators, whom the Sharks lost to last week. Not much has gone right for head coach Pete DeBoer’s squad, especially during this five-game losing streak.
While the losses to the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks were lacking in just about every area, the Sharks put up a valiant effort against the Winnipeg Jets in their return to the SAP Center after a long road trip. In what may have been their most complete game to date, San Jose fired off 53 shots to Winnipeg’s 19, but they just couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities as Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck played arguably the best game of his young career.
There have been plenty of games this season like the ones against Boston and Vancouver, but the Winnipeg game gave us a glimpse of what the Sharks are capable of and provided fans with a much-needed glimmer of hope. While the team struggles to find an identity and fights through frustration, it hasn’t been all bad in the Bay Area. Here are some news and notes from the past week.
Weekly Game Results
- Tuesday, Oct. 29: 5-1 loss at Boston Bruins
- Friday, Nov. 1: 3-2 loss vs Winnipeg Jets
- Saturday, Nov. 2: 5-2 loss vs Vancouver Canucks
When you’re a team that has found as much success as the Sharks have in recent history, it can be very frustrating to have no answers as to what is going so dreadfully wrong. The Sharks are currently sporting a minus-20 goal differential with a league-worst minus-18 differential in 5-on-5 play. While it would be easy for a team struggling as badly as San Jose is to get down and start pointing fingers looking for answers, defenseman Brenden Dillon provided a glimpse into the mindset of the struggling locker room.
Coach DeBoer was a little less saccharine in his assessment of the current state of the team.
“I think as a group we’re a little pissed off where we’re at,” DeBoer said. “We’re a little embarrassed. We’ve got to start playing with a little more of an attitude. Defend with a little more attitude, attack with a little more attitude. I just think we’ve been a soft team through 10 to 12 games and that doesn’t win you many games in this league.”
The good thing is that frustration can be fixed with a few good games. We see those aforementioned glimpses in games like the one against Winnipeg where San Jose came out with a certain swagger that has been missing in a majority of their games this season. Although it’s hard to play with swagger and confidence when you’re getting blown out, captain Logan Couture believes the frustration will be fleeting and the swagger and wins will make their triumphant return sooner than later.
“We need to get that swagger, that confidence back, that we’ve had here for so many years. It’s tough when you’re losing,” Couture said. “There’s no blame game going on in the room at all. Everyone’s looking at their own game. Individually we all need to be better. Once that happens I think, as a team, we’ll play better.”
Penalty Problems Bite the Sharks
One major handicap to winning games is committing excessive penalties. As a team, the Sharks are second in the league with 70 penalties. Dillon and Barclay Goodrow are tied for sixth in the NHL with eight penalties and Brent Burns trails the duo by one with seven penalties. Goodrow is also tied for the league-lead with 35 penalty minutes.
This problem reared its ugly head in the Bruins game when the Sharks accrued 57 penalty minutes, including game misconducts and ejections for Goodrow, Couture, Evander Kane, and coach DeBoer in a very heated game. Even without the 30 minutes of misconduct penalties, San Jose still had 27 PIM in the game.
Their penalty kill has been a big help in this area, and we’ll get to that in a bit, but it’s still not an ideal situation for a team desperate for a little success.
The Sharks’ defense has struggled mightily thus far, but help is on the way. Radim Simek, who suffered a major leg injury last March, has been recalled from his AHL conditioning assignment and figures to play a role in helping stabilize the defensive unit. Simek scored nine points in 41 games for the Sharks during the 2018-19 season, so he won’t add a lot to the score sheet, but he still brings a lot to the table defensively.
In the last two seasons, San Jose is 28-9-3 with Simek on the ice, and 17-28-2 without him, including the 2018-19 playoffs. He won’t fix all of the team’s problems, but it sure is a great place to start.
One of the few consistently bright spots for San Jose this season has been their special teams units. The Sharks are the owners of the league’s best penalty-kill unit with an 89.7 percent kill rate. They’re also ninth in the league on the power play at 22 percent.
In a season desperate for some highs, one of the few consistent highs has been Kane, especially on the power play. Kane has six of the team’s power-play goals. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic even got in on the special teams fun with a shorthanded goal against the Canucks. It’s odd to see such a disparity between 5-on-5 play and special teams play, but it’s another glimpse into an area of success that the team can try to build on.
The goalie situation in San Jose has been rough to watch in recent years. This year has been no different. The boom-or-bust nature of Martin Jones and the inconsistent play of Aaron Dell has contributed greatly to the team’s struggles. The defense has been abysmal, which hasn’t helped, but when it comes down to it, neither goaltender has really stepped up to the challenge.
This past week, Jones sported an .878 save percentage against Boston, stopping 36 of 41 shots, and an .842 SV% against the Jets, turning aside 16 of 19 shots. Dell didn’t fare much better against Vancouver with an .821 SV%, stopping 23 of 28. Dell has struggled mightily as a backup, which opens a potential door for prospect Josef Korenar. Much like Simek, Korenar may not be the answer to all of the Sharks’ problems, but the 2018-19 AHL All-Star sure looks like a step up from Dell, and potentially even Jones, and could help provide a spark in the net that the Sharks so desperately need.
The Sharks will look to get back in the win column this week with home games against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, and the Nashville Predators on Saturday, who beat them 5-2 on Oct. 8. They have already beaten the Blackhawks once this season, picking up their first win, so they’ll look to rekindle some of that magic before tough tests against the Wild and the Predators.