The San Jose Sharks suffered only their second loss at home in regulation this season on Sunday. The Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Sharks 4-3 on a game winner by Ryan Johansen with only 1:37 remaining. However, the Sharks have only themselves to blame for the loss. Why? Turnovers a plenty.
Turnovers Doom Sharks
17 times. This number is not how many saves Antti Niemi made on Sunday (18), rather it is the number of giveaways the Sharks committed. Two of the Blue Jacket goals came directly off of giveaways. Early in the second period, a Brad Stuart pass was easily intercepted by Mark Letestu who found Vinny Prospal for a breakaway that ended with the puck in the net. Then, in the third period, moments after he rescued the Sharks, Joe Pavelski coughed up the puck in his own end leading to the game-winner by Ryan Johansen.
A bright third period tried to erase the poor and sloppy play in the first two. Bobrovsky, who has been sharp down the stretch was hardly tested until the third when San Jose woke up. The turnovers eased up and passes became crisp. As Pavelski tied it, the crowd at HP Pavilion came alive and few in the building did not believe at least one point would come San Jose’s way. Unfortunately, the last turnover by the Sharks turned out to be the one that hurt them most.
Head coach, Todd McLellan, says it best: “We had plenty of offense. Offense was not the problem one bit tonight, not one bit. It was the defensive part and the puck-management, game management.”
Sharks Win, But Giveaways Raise Pulses
Tuesday marked the night of the Sharks’ ninth straight playoff clinching season in a row. But it did not come easy. The Stars goaltender, Kari Lehtonen, seemed to have the Sharks number all night. Frantic scrambles in front saw eight skaters falling over each other wildly swinging at the puck; but the netminder kept his cool for 54 minutes. But it only took twenty seconds to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory when Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture finally scrapped their way to two goals.
A deserved win for a team that spent the majority of the game putting heavy pressure on their opponents, the Sharks dominated on Tuesday. But the Dallas Stars had their chances, and where did those chances come from? You guessed it. Turnovers. 13 turnovers in their victory was an improvement from the Columbus loss, but the Sharks were lucky they were only down one going into the third.
The Stars hardly managed any sort of offense outside of their two goals. When they did have their chances, the Sharks were to blame. While they did not result in the big goals that burned them against Columbus, the Sharks sloppy puck management could still pose a problem in the playoffs.
Playoff Success in Jeopardy
With no offense to the Stars and Blue Jackets, the elite teams in the West are not kind to turnover-prone teams. 470 turnovers going into Wednesday’s game with Phoenix is “good” for second-most in the league. Chicago and Anaheim will capitalize. The Kings and Canucks will make the Sharks pay for coughing it up.
Mistakes in the playoffs can cost a team a whole season. That can be anything from a poorly taken penalty to a careless turnover. If the Sharks want to make a run at playoff success, they need to clean up their stick-handling and passing. Turnovers will come back to bite the Sharks if they are not careful.