The San Jose Sharks lost the last time they visited the Calgary Flames. The pictured keys can ensure that is the only blemish head-to-head against the once-again Pacific Division rivals on Monday, March 24.
Since the loss Jan. 30, the Sharks are 12-3-2. They have since gotten Logan Couture, Adam Burish, Marty Havlat and Tyler Kennedy back but lost Brad Stuart. With the roster's return to health, they have scored 46 goals in 13 games. However, a win by the Anaheim Ducks gave the 2013 Pacific Division champions a better point percentage as well as the first tiebreak.
Since the trade deadline, the Flames seem more confident offensively. They have gone 4-2-0 and scored 28 goals not including their shootout winner. If they lose and the Pacific Division rival Phoenix Coyotes win Monday, they will be just five points from being eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Over the entire 2013-14 NHL season, Calgary scores 2.48 goals on 26.8 shots per game and allows 2.92 on 28, with a 15.4 percent power play and 81.7 penalty kill, compiling a 16-17-3 home record. San Jose scores 2.93 goals on 34.9 shots and allows 2.32 on 27.7, with a 16.0 percent power play and 84.7 percent penalty kill, compiling a 20-13-3 road record.
A win will move the Sharks back to the best record in the Pacific Division for home-ice advantage until the Western Conference finals and clinch a berth in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. Even with a loss, they make the postseason with a loss by either the Coyotes or Dallas Stars.
Look for San Jose to fight for an early lead to enable rolling four lines, saving a little for the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday. Look for Calgary to force the competition late enough to keep the benches are short in the third period before losing, 4-2 thanks to an empty-net goal.
Time on attack
The San Jose Sharks should have the puck more in this game. They have won 279 more faceoffs than they have lost and are almost as good at taking the puck as giving it, resulting in 94 extra possessions so far in the 2013-14 NHL season.
The Calgary Flames are the worst faceoff team in the NHL, losing 315 more than they have won. They are almost as bad at giving the puck away as the Sharks and not as good at taking it, costing them 463 possession so far in the 2013-14 NHL season.
That means almost eight extra possessions for San Jose. Those possessions must be spent on the attack—in the offensive zone and sending the puck toward the net—to matter.
The San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames are both in the top three in the NHL in blocked shots and shots allowed per block. Both will block one of every three to four attempts in this game.
The team that wins will be the one able to get the most rubber actually on net, not the one getting the best-quality shots. The blue lines need to look to fire quickly rather than try for the better shot, fire wide rather than right at a defender hoping it will get through and dump low when neither is there. The one that does this better wins.
In your face
Shot-blocking teams tend to force their goalies to work through more traffic. The San Jose Sharks have enabled many opposing goalies to have high save percentages because their otherwise-ample attack lacked traffic in front of the net.
San Jose must bring bodies screening the goalie. Sticks reaching in for deflections are not reliable enough for scoring by themselves to warrant not making traffic a focus from the start rather than just when the team gets desperate in the third period.