The Comcast Sports Net post-game broadcast did a good job of spinning the sixth straight loss for the San Jose Sharks Tuesday, February 12 at the hands of the Nashville Predators: 7-3-3 is still a good record. In a normal NHL season, that pace results in 107 points, good for third-best in franchise history.
They did not gloss over the disappointment in how the team reached this point. When you start unbeaten in the opening month, you do not expect to follow it with a month of all losses. To avoid seven in a row Friday, they will have to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, who have the best record in the NHL and just beat the Sharks in San Jose.
The Sharks came out with much better energy after their debacle in Columbus Monday. They dominated the first period with a 13-3 edge in shots, but could not get one by Pekka Rinne.
In the second, they were tentative despite five Nashville penalties, getting out-shot 11-6. They seemed to be playing to hold the scoreless tie in the third, and Antti Niemi made more than one highlight save to ensure a point in the standings.
San Jose was actually the better team in the overtime, but the results would say otherwise. Joe Pavelski was inches away from a goal on one of his team's three shots, but Colin Wilson redirected a Ryan Ellis point shot that trickled past Niemi about half way into the extra session on the only Nashville shot.
San Jose went back to the standard first line but inserted minor league standout Tim Kennedy onto the second line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. The third line has remained strong since coach Todd McLellan put James Sheppard, Michal Handzus and Tommy Wingels together, but the fourth line was somewhat of a surprise: Adam Burish playing center with Martin Havlat and T.J. Galiardi on the wing.
That line being without a true pivot was only part of the reason the Sharks lost 13 more draws than they won. They went one of four, while most of the deficit was attributable to Michal Handzus (two of 13). The possessions they did get were more valued, as the Sharks had just three giveaways to eight for the Predators. However, the home team balanced that out by getting 10 takeaways to five for the visitors.
Despite the extra possessions, Nashville attempted seven fewer shots and put the same number on goal. This is both a cause and effect of having four more blocks, and makes their five extra hits predictable.
McLellan sat Scott Gomez after just one bad game all season. Andrew Desjardins was still ill, and Matt Pelech's purpose on the fourth line right wing appears to have been served. Brent Burns was also scratched, partially because three games in four days might be too much, but partially because he did not play well Monday according to the coach.
Of course, no one did. And the juggling shows that anyone not doing their job can be demoted or even scratched. Gomez, Sheppard and Kennedy have all been both inactive and on a scoring line.
With the power play one for its last 22 over the five games played since their first loss, the Sharks have managed just six total goals. The post-game broadcast aptly cited not making the simple play and passing up shot opportunities. Something must be found to compel more shots, traffic and redirected pucks, or this February 2013 might look like a rerun of February 2012 (a 3-8-1 stretch between wins to start and end the month).
Examiner.com's three stars of the game:
- Rinne turned aside all 25 shots he faced to ensure a win for Nashville.
- Niemi turned aside the first 24 shots to ensure a point for San Jose.
- Colin Wilson got the tip-in game winner.