The San Jose Sharks can be a tough team to locate at times.
They can look defense and dangerous on the forecheck as they did against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, or, in the span of 48 hours, they can look as disconnected and different as they did on Thursday against the St.
So is the Sharks team going to show up on Saturday when they face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at the SAP Center, or on Monday when Andrei Svechnikov and the Carolina Hurricanes also visit the South Bay?
If the Sharks (8-7-1) can’t play with a little more structure, they’ll have a harder time getting themselves out of a funk that has seen them lose three of their last four games. Sixth in the Pacific Division.
The Hurricanes and Capitals are the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division. Carolina has the best goalscorer in the NHL and Washington, led by Ovechkin, has one of the league’s top offenses.
“Who knows what the start against Washington is going to be like, but we have to try to stick to our identity for 60 minutes,” Sharks coach Bob Boffner said after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to St. . “There are going to be peaks and valleys of the game. It’s just a matter of getting back to our foundation, and I think tonight we got away with it, and that’s what happens.”
Here are five overviews of a five-game road trip.
Timo Time: Timo Meier, with five goals and six assists in his first eight games, looked like a true All-Star winger before the NHL’s COVID protocol took off. He maintained that fast pace in his three matches since his return. Back with linemates Logan Couture and Jonathan Dahlen, Meyer made the fastest start of a season in his NHL career to continue scoring one goal and three assists.
Boffner has explained how Meyer’s better play away from the puck has increased scoring chances. But he also noted Meyer’s willingness to coach this season and accept constructive criticism – indicating that he is maturing as a player and a person.
“I think Timo is back and tried to take on a more leadership role in the dressing room. He’s a lot more outspoken, he’s taken young people under his wing, and it looks like he’s a lot Having more fun,” Boffner said of the 25-year-old forward.
“I thought he put a lot of pressure on himself last year and sometimes when we talked, it was more confrontational. I think this year he is more accepting of teaching and support. He’s enjoying it, and he should. He’s playing his game and he’s enjoying it.”
Middle Six Concerns: While the Sharks’ top line has largely fueled the Sharks’ offense this season, there are legitimate concerns about the second and third line’s scoring prowess.
Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barbanov both had three points on the road trip while Rudolf Balser was left off the scoresheet in four of five games.
Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano if that wouldn’t be a concern. Kevin LaBlanc and Matt Nieto were also able to take a bit more offense with strength. But Bonino is in a terrifying offensive decline with zero points in 16 games, Nieto has one assist in nine games, Cogliano has four points in 15 games, and Kevin LaBlanc was recently demoted to fourth in line.
Consistency from the second line and aggressive production from the third line can be season-long issues for the Sharks.
Brent Burns, Fire and Ice: Few players were more impressive for the Sharks from October 30 to November 11 than Burns, who scored one goal and eight assists in six games at the time.
But in the three games since the Sharks got four defenders back from COVID protocol, Burns has zero points, and Thursday marked the second straight game he was held without a shot. The Sharks didn’t have a single power play on Thursday that played a part in that.
Of course, Burns has been asked to take on more shutdown roles over the past two seasons, which is going to have an adverse effect on his production. But Boffner and his staff need to find a way to get him more aggressive opportunities. It is very important and a great weapon. Having a stable third-defense pair that can be on the ice for a more defensive zone draw will help.
circle around: James Reimer went 1-2-0 on the five-game road trip with a .926 save percentage. Edin Hill went 1-1-0 up with a respectable .912 saving percentage. In addition to a 6–2 loss to Colorado on November 13, Reimer and Hill gave the Sharks a chance to win or steal points in every game.
Tough Pacific: The Pacific Division is tougher than people expect. Yes, Vegas and Edmonton are as good as advertised, but Anaheim and Los Angeles should be considered a surprise by now, with a combined record of 18-11-5.
The Sharks began the road trip on November 9 in a tie for fourth place with a 6-4-1 record, five points behind the Oilers. They are now in sixth place, seven points behind Edmonton.
The Sharks have played 10 of their 16 games away from home but now start a four-game homestand. After the game with Carolina, the Sharks play Ottawa on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday.
“So it’s been a grind, our schedule. We’ve played some tough teams,” Boffner said. “But I believe our whole division has improved.”