Fans of the San Jose Sharks started their weekend ready to watch their team face back-to-back games against Stanley Cup contenders not yet in position to qualify for the postseason a couple dozen games into the 2015-16 NHL season. They saw an offense that struggled from the start at the Anaheim Ducks and could not catch a break at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, Dec. 5.
Finding five Sharks to picture for byteclay.com’s stars of the weekend was tough because while there were some positives, few players made a difference. Those losses finally erased the gains of the recent six-game Eastern Conference road sweep and reasserted their home-ice struggles dating back through the 2014-15 NHL season.
Fortunately for San Jose, the rest of the Pacific Division is unimpressive enough that only one team is higher in the standings. That still does not change that this up-and-down 2015-16 NHL season that has resulted in 28 points in 26 games is a disappointment.
The Sharks continued two other bad trends: Friday they were shutout by a backup and Saturday they gave up the first goal of the game before the first television timeout.
San Jose has struggled to score against such goalie titans as Steve Mason (needed overtime to score one goal), Anton Khudobin (shutout), Chad Johnson (needed overtime to score two goals), Thomas Greiss (two goals), Jhonas Enroth (one goal) and Antti Raanta (shutout). John Gibson is probably better than any of them but has only amassed 19 career wins.
Seven poor-at-best offensive games against seven different mediocre-at-best goalies in 26 games would be bad enough, but there are six more games in which the Sharks failed to score three goals. Failing to reach the three-goal mark in half their games so far this 2015-16 NHL season is not a recipe for success.
Neither is giving up an early goal: San Jose has trailed by the first television timeout in nine of those 26 games. Saturday’s came after a tough break Andre Kucherov’s shot went off defender Paul Martin and past Alex Stalock.
The Sharks had a score correctly waived off because Mike Brown gloved the puck and endured a few penalties that seemed to be called with a different standard than they were for the Lightning, but then Ben Bishop was knocked from the game by an uncalled high-sticking penalty to the eye.
Moreover, San Jose’s bad breaks were sometimes a result of failing to read the play: Stalock let the game-winning goal in when he did not know it was on his stick-side flank and Brent Burns was danced around to allow the “lucky” shot that opened scoring.
, Stalock has only had a couple good games so far this 2015-16 NHL season and Martin Jones has struggled just as much at home. The Sharks may have to play without another star after Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s unspecified injury and it is hard to know how much longer Logan Couture is going to be out.
San Jose has two points in seven games this 2015-16 NHL season without a top-four defenseman does not inspire confidence. Neither does a sub-.500 record without Couture (a win in the only game without him that had the full blue-line compliment).
Fortunately, the Sharks may have time to get healthy in the Pacific Division to hang on to a Stanley Cup-playoff berth. Still, a team that cannot overcome the loss of one key player to both skating units is not prepared to make any postseason noise.