The San Jose Sharks have dropped five of six games, and three of them were frankly because of inferior effort. A repeat of that problem is not one of the five pictured things to watch for when they pay a visit to the St. Louis Blues Tuesday, Dec. 17.
Is that because the Sharks are too good to lose another? No, they have multiple four-game losing streaks in every season since winning the President's trophy in 2008, including the 33-game old 2013-14 NHL season.
They are also not playing an inferior team, but that will actually work against the Blues. The Sharks tend to play to the level of their competition, and are far less likely to let up against a team that has the best point percentage—the only logical measure of standings—in the NHL.
San Jose once held that distinction but is now eighth by that same measure. That is only good for third in the Pacific Division, and there are five teams better in the Western Conference. That would mean no home-ice advantage in even the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
At some point, the urgency to play a 60-minute game needs to kick in. What better point than in St. Louis, where Dan Boyle was the target of a malicious boarding from Maxim Lapierre?
The head-first hit from behind led to Boyle missing two weeks, while a well-established goon was suspended for just five games for endangering an opponent's life. That was a shorter time during the 2013-14 NHL season than Raffi Torres served in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs for a far more egregious and dangerous hit because Lapierre had fines rather than suspensions in his past.
NHL logic is not like any regular people could understand. The Sharks did what they could about it at the time of the injustice, dominating a team they had only beaten twice in a dozen tries—a double-overtime win in the first game of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals and another 12 hours after the Blues returned home from Vancouver thanks to a flight delay.
In the second contest this season, the scant discipline of Lapierre may have been a motivator in a 6-3 win. Maintaining that should ensure enough killer instinct to keep the pressure on for 60 minutes in the last meeting of the 2013-14 NHL season between these Western Conference rivals Tuesday.
San Jose has to need the win more to go get it in the house of a team with a previously-examined personnel advantage. After a tough loss Monday, St. Louis might be without captain David Backes, Vladimir Sobotka or Jaden Schwartz. Both teams have a couple significant role-players injured, but the guests do not have two scoring forwards out.
The better-rested, healthier team often triumphs. With the chip on their shoulder to push them to 60 minutes of urgency, the Blues should run out of gas...2-1 Sharks.