On Sunday, March 17, Pro Hockey Talk made reference to the NHL trade rumors swirling around the San Jose Sharks and Ryane Clowe by quoting Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun-Times saying general manager Doug Wilson is in "full panic mode." It was a topic on "NHL on the Fly" on the NHL Network just before 5:00 p.m. PDT Monday, and losing their fifth consecutive road game hours later to the Pacific Division rival Anaheim Ducks did nothing to suggest there should not be panic.
This team has only three wins in over seven weeks that did not come via shootout. They had been surviving on great defense, but have now yielded at least three goals in six straight games. They absolutely hung Antti Niemi out to dry on every goal but the empty net tally.
If they are not going to play well in their own end, they are going nowhere and they might as well dump current talent for younger options, either among current NHL players, prospects or future draft picks. If they clear up enough cap space, they may even be able to rebuild a team that can be as good as this one right away thanks to a buyer's free agent market this summer.
Right now, talk of trading Clowe must wait until he can return to the lineup. He missed Monday's game with a shoulder injury that was a lingering problem that was aggravated in Saturday's game, according to the broadcast team.
The Sharks came out looking like a team eager to prove their poor effort in that game would not carry over to this one. They had the first nine shot attempts 2:33 in, but the Ducks kept all but three of them from reaching the net thanks mostly to five blocks.
When they pushed back, San Jose could not match them. Anaheim had a shot hit two posts, put one through and kept Niemi scrambling. Eventually, they cooled and Jason Demers got his first goal of the season to even the score in the final minute of the opening frame.
After the intermission, the game got away from the Sharks. Another bad line change resulted in a goal, one was scored by an uncovered weak-side forward and another came shorthanded. All three came in a span of 2:40.
San Jose pushed back to prove that span would not define their game. Patrick Marleau put home his 15th of the season with under 30 seconds remaining in the second period, and the team carried that momentum into the final stanza. When Matt Irwin scored with over 13 minutes to go, you could see the determination throughout the team.
But games are not won on sheer determination. The Sharks attempted 67 shots to 44 for the Ducks and had a 35-28 edge in those that reached the net. Yet despite controlling the play, they were only out-hit 24-20.
When the team doing all the shooting is generally strong in the circle and is facing one of the weakest, that kind of shot differential is not unexpected. However, Anaheim won 35 draws to only 23 for San Jose, and having three more giveaways is expected given the extra possessions; takeaways were even.
Those numbers would suggest the Sharks should have won. But what makes the Ducks better is they do not make the same critical mistakes and do a better job of taking advantage of those their opponents make. Coach Todd McLellan talked about the effort after the game:
If we were looking for effort and banking on effort, it was there. But the results are the same. I thought we took a tight-checking game and turned it into a track meet, and that certainly doesn't favor us.
Unless the Sharks can get results, NHL trade rumors will continue to focus on them. With the loss, they drop out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. In the Pacific Division, they are now eight games back of the Ducks, who had three players step up to get them the win:
- Francois Beauchemin had two goals on five shot attempts, two hits and two blocks.
- Ryan Getzlaf rose to the occasion with Corey Perry out, scoring a goal and an assist on four shot attempts with one giveaway but one block and four wins to one loss in the circle.
- Emerson Etem also had a goal—the first of his NHL career, making him at least the fourth player to do that against the Sharks this season—and an assist on three shot attempts, with two hits and a takeaway.