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Sunken Pacific Pennant Hopes
By Victor Cabrera
While the Sharks had been basking on top of the Pacific Division the month of March flipped the script. San Jose had a terrible month playing 16 games and recording a 6-10-0 record for a mere 12 points. The Sharks suffered six consecutive losses this past month, and as a result, the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers are battling for the Division Championship. Although the Sharks have clinched a playoff spot there is some doubt about a run for the cup with the recent play of the team. The goal scoring has disappeared and the team has begun to allow more goals in every game. There are a few regular season games left to get back to being consistent but for now to review this past month which was a struggle for the San Jose Sharks.
The month started with a home game against the Vancouver Canucks. The visitors took an early lead finding the back of the net with the man advantage. Late in the period, Mikkel Boedker tied the game for the Sharks. A 1-1 score after the opening period led into a memorable night for Marcus Sorensen. He gave the Sharks the 2-1 lead in the second period by scoring his first career NHL goal. Logan Couture doubled the Sharks lead with a goal later in the period. The 3-1 Sharks lead became the final score as neither team managed to score afterward. San Jose then traveled for a brief two game back to back road trip in the Central Division. The first stop on the schedule was the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota opened the scoring with a power play goal, shortly followed by another quick goal for a 2-0 lead in the first. Melker Karlsson cut the deficit scoring late in the first for San Jose. The 2-1 Wild lead remained unchanged in the second period with neither team scoring. The third period was tight the Sharks only trailed by one and aimed to tie the game by pulling the goalie late in the game but, gave up an empty net goal falling to the Wild 3-1. The loss wasn’t in the mind of San Jose as the next night they paid a visit to the Winnipeg Jets. The Captain Joe Pavelski opened the scoring, giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead. The lead didn’t last long as the Jets scored tying the game at one. The scoring seized in the first period and throughout the whole second period. Mikkel Boedker restored the Sharks’ lead scoring a short-handed goal in the third. The one goal lead forced the Jets to pull their goalie late in the game. A defensive zone takeaway by Joe Thornton led to Joe Pavelski scoring his second of the night, and a very important milestone for Joe Thornton who recorded an assist on the empty net goal. Joe Thornton recorded his 1000th career assist only the 13th player to do so in the league’s history. The game, however, wasn’t over as the Jets scored on a power play with seven seconds left, ending the game 3-2 for a Sharks’ road win.
Next on the Sharks’ schedule was a six game home stand at the SAP Center. First to visit were the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin. The visitors got on the scoresheet early in the game. Joe Thornton tied the game later in the period with a goal for the Sharks. One a piece was the score after the opening period. The captain Joe Pavelski scored at the start of the second giving the Sharks the lead. The Capitals scored later in the period knotting up the score at two. The Sharks regained their lead late in the period, capitalizing on a power play with a goal from Logan Couture. 3-2 San Jose with one period to go. Another power play for Logan Couture in the third period sealed the game for the Sharks for a 4-2 win to start of the home stand. The Nashville Predators came to visit for the next game. Paul Martin opened the scoring in the game giving the Sharks a brief lead that was quickly answered, by a Predators goal tying the game. The tie wasn’t broken till the middle of the second period in which the Predators scored the period’s lone goal for a 2-1 lead. The Sharks struggled to tie it in the third forcing themselves to pull their goalie. Hoping they could score with a power play and their goalie pulled to force overtime, they gave up a short-handed empty net goal giving Nashville the 3-1 win. The following night the Dallas Stars came for a game at the Shark Tank. The game got to an early start with Patrick Marleau scoring the game’s first goal. The Stars answered back but Joe Pavelski scored late in the first recapturing the Sharks’ lead. 2-1 after the opening period, a lead that wasn’t good enough for San Jose. Joel Ward scored an early period goal to make it 3-1. Joe Pavelski further added to the lead stealing a puck for a breakaway and scoring short-handed for a 4-1 lead which held through the middle frame. Chris Tierney secured the Sharks win scoring early in the third period for a 5-1 final score.
The Buffalo Sabers were next to take on the Sharks at home. The Sharks had not defeated the Sabers since 2010 a five game losing streak when these two teams faced off at the SAP Center. The Sabers looked to keep the Sharks down scoring in the first minute of the game and the opening period’s goal. San Jose struggled to tie but found magic on the power play with Captain Joe Pavelski scoring to tie the game. Micheal Haley gave the Sharks the lead late in the third scoring a fortunate goal in which he attempted a cycle but the Buffalo defender got the puck and attempted a pass that deflected off a skate and past the goaltender for a goal. The Sharks had to protect their 2-1 lead in the third and Joe Pavelski helped them increase their lead by scoring his second goal of the night. Logan Couture later scored in the third to seal the game 4-1 giving the Sharks their first win against the Sabers at SAP Center since 2010. The St. Louis Blues were next on the schedule for the home stand. St. Louis got on the board first late in the opening period. Marc-Edouard Vlasic tied the game for the Sharks a minute later. The 1-1 score was unchanged until the second period in which the Blues scored the only goal of the second period for a 2-1 lead. The Sharks had one period to tie the game but the Blues scored on the man advantage giving them a two goal lead. Being down by two San Jose risked it pulling the goalie and St. Louis secured a win scoring on the empty net, the Sharks fell 4-1. To close out the home stand were the Anaheim Ducks who were also fighting for the Pacific Division Championship. The Ducks scored at the commence of the game just 39 seconds in. The Sharks did not have an answer till the closing seconds of the period scoring on the power play for 1-1 tie after 20 minutes of play. Both teams battled to get an advantage but the Ducks would be the ones to get it scoring in the second period off a breakaway. 2-1 was the score in favor of the Ducks with one period left to play. Neither team managed to score in the final frame and the Sharks lost 2-1 to the Ducks. San Jose now had a four game road trip against Central Division opponents.
Their first game on the road was against the Dallas Stars. A very interesting game that had a rare score of 1-0. Dallas scored the game’s only goal in the second period resulting in the Sharks third consecutive loss. San Jose moved quickly after that losing squaring off with the Wild the very next night. The Sharks gave up the first period’s only goal on a power play. In the second period, a strange sequence occurred late in the period. Patrick Marleau scored tying the game 1-1. Just 33 seconds later the Wild regained their lead scoring, and then 15 seconds later the Wild scored again for a 3-1 lead. However, Patrick Marleau scored 15 seconds after that making the score 3-2. The game would have no more scoring after that unique 63 seconds in the second period resulting in a 3-2 Wild win and wild it was. The Sharks had two nights off before their next two games which were back to back. A return to Dallas for the first game. The Stars scored the opening period’s only goal. Dallas didn’t stop their scoring three goals in the second in 5:10 of game play. Joe Thornton helped the Sharks answer back scoring on the power play to trail 4-1. The Stars scored two in the third for a 6-1 win making it 5 losses in a row for the Sharks and now getting tied for first in the Pacific Division. To close out the road trip San Jose Visited the Music City for a match up against the Nashville Predators. The home side did all the scoring in the first scoring two goals. Patrick Marleau scored in the second off a power play to make it 2-1. Less than 30 seconds the Predators scored on a power play of their own making it 3-1. The Preds would then increase their lead to three with another goal but the Sharks answered back making it 4-2 with one period to play. A tough deficit to overcome for the Sharks. The third period was all Nashville scoring three unanswered goals in the final period two of them on the power play for a 7-2 San Jose loss. The Sharks had now lost their last six and remained tied for first in the Pacific.
The Sharks returned to the SAP Center for one game against the New York Rangers. San Jose started off on the right foot with a goal from the newest member of the Sharks Jannik Hansen. The Rangers tied it later in the period but, Melker Karlsson gave the Sharks back the lead scoring short-handed for a 2-1 lead at the first intermission. Chris Tierney scored in the second giving the Sharks a 3-1 lead however, the Rangers capitalized on a power play scoring in the closing seconds of the middle frame for a 3-2 score with the last period to play. The Rangers got momentum scoring at the start of the third tying the game and then got the lead scoring minutes later on a power play. Chris Tierney scored his second of the night late in the third forcing overtime with a 4-4 end of regulation score. The Sharks won in overtime with a power play goal from Brent Burns ending their six game losing streak. With both teams earning a point they both had now clinched a playoff spot. The Sharks would then head out for a Western Canadian road trip. Facing the Edmonton Oilers first who were also now in the race for first in the Pacific. The Sharks got the early start scoring one minute into the game with a goal from Jannik Hansen. The Oilers tied it later in the opening period and took the lead late in the period with a short-handed goal. The 2-1 score didn’t change as there was no scoring in the second period. In the third, the Oilers scored making it a two goal lead. Joe Pavelski scored later in the third attempting to rally back but the Sharks lost 3-2 to the Oilers. The Sharks visited the Calgary Flames the next night to close out March. The Flames managed to score the opening period’s solo goal. Calgary then increased their lead in the second with a power play goal. Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored bringing the Sharks within one. However, the Flames had other plans scoring two more goals in the third for a 4-1 lead with one period to play. Aaron Dell replaced Martin Jones for the third period of the game. Melker Karlsson scored in the third reducing the Flames to two goals but the Flames scored late in the game on an empty net for a 5-2 win. With that loss the Sharks had just a one point lead over the Flames for third in the division.
The Sharks leaders for the month of March are as followed: Goal Leader Joe Pavelski 29 goals, Assist leader Brent Burns 45 assists, Point leader Brent Burns 73 points, Goalie leaders Martin Jones 33 wins two shutouts, Aaron Dell 10 wins one shutout.
The Sharks had a terrible month of March and this can lead to an early elimination in the Playoffs. The six-game losing streak is not something you want especially when those loses are against potential playoff opponents. The scoring disappeared in many games and the defense was allowing too many goals. The penalty kill is struggling and the power play is doing good, having said that the best thing is to play smart thereby staying out of the box. Capitalize to take the lead and close out games on the power play. There’s a few games to fix the issues but, some strong wins can generate momentum once the playoffs get in gear. Hopefully the team can get back into the swing of things and dominate once again in the playoffs.
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April 8th, 2017