A quick look at the San Jose Sharks' last four games:
- A 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at home on March 2. The host team takes a 2-0 lead into the third period, gives up a goal with 5:30 left in the game and holds on for the one-score win;
- A 3-2 overtime shootout win on the road against the Vancouver Canucks on March 5. Scoreless third-period and overtime sessions gives the Sharks a big victory;
- A disheartening 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames the next night, where San Jose entered the third period tied before giving up three goals -- including the first two less than two minutes apart before the first five minutes of the period were even up;
- Last night's debacle back at HP Pavilion as the Sharks entered the final period up two goals -- but surrendered back-to-back scores 80 seconds apart and then lost just 1:12 into the overtime period.
Same old Sharks.
After this 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues, San Jose has now given up 23 goals in the third period this season, in only 23 games. Surrendering a goal a game in the final 20 minutes is not good.
The Sharks themselves have scored only 12 goals in the third period this year, which means they are being outscored dramatically in the most important 20 minutes of the game.
And it's costing them point after point in the standings. Again. Just like last year. And just like the year before that.
Goaltender Antti Niemi -- who has been relatively stellar this year with a 10-4-4 record, a 1.92 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage -- actually got pulled after the two goals in the third last night just 80 seconds apart.
But the blame can't go entirely on him, of course. The whole team is to blame for a lack of killer instinct and an inability to finish out games for 60 minutes, whistle to whistle.
San Jose likes to get off to fast starts: they've outscored opponents 21-11 in the first period this season. They have a slight edge in the second period this year (17-15).
But the Sharks can't close. Even worse, they've yet to score an overtime goal this year -- in nine opportunities. And they've given up two goals to lose in the five-minute extra session.
So San Jose has surrendered 25 third-period or overtime goals this year, while scoring only 12 themselves at the same time. That's worse than a two-to-one disadvantage, and no team wins games consistently getting doubled up when it matters the most.
Yes, the Sharks are still holding down a tentative playoff spot (No. 7 in the West) as the season reaches its midway point today with the game in Colorado against the Avalanche.
Yes, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup as the No. 8 seed in the playoffs last season.
But San Jose fans -- and the organization's brain trust -- have to be concerned about this ongoing pattern that just doesn't fade or improve.
There are nine teams in the Western Conference right now separated by just three points in the standings: Vancouver (28), Los Angeles (28), St. Louis (28), Detroit (28), San Jose (27), Phoenix (27), Minnesota (26), Dallas (26) and Nashville (26).
The Sharks have lost eight games already -- in just 23 contests -- by one goal, either in regulation, overtime or shootout loss, and even if they'd just managed to win half of those, San Jose have some breathing room from this scrum its in the middle of right now.
Finishing games. Securing what's yours. Fighting until the end.
That's how you win the Cup, and that's why the Sharks never have.