Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sharks Gameday: Third Time's the Charm?

I'm not too keen on game-day posts, but the Sharks' third and final matchup against the Anaheim Ducks in a week is shaping up to be the biggest of all on many different levels. The Sharks held a two-hour players-only meeting yesterday, no doubt to discuss the team's failures in the late stages of Thursday's debacle against Phoenix in which the Sharks gave up a tying goal with less than a minute to play on a shot by Shane Doan eerily reminiscent of the goal scored by former Red Wing Robert Lang last Spring to tie Game 4 in San Jose and turn the tide against the Sharks.

Earlier on in the season, many of the Sharks' defeats were due to the opposition lulling San Jose into a false sense of security, then pouncing for a goal or two and quickly tightening up the defense. While this method is still being employed against San Jose, as evidenced by the last meeting between the Ducks and Sharks Tuesday night, the Sharks now find themselves losing games in which they simply did not demonstrate a will to win, a trend that began two weeks ago against the Buffalo Sabres, continued last week against Dallas and recurred Thursday against the Coyotes. Simply wanting the victory isn't going to cut it against an upper echelon team like the Ducks, but it's certainly a good start.

But what the Sharks really need to beat this Anaheim team is production. Through four games this season against their Southern California rivals, the Sharks have potted a measly five goals (with one of them a shootout winner), a far cry from last season's total of eleven goals in their first four meetings against Anaheim. Their lack of secondary scoring has been their primary problem all season long, with Patrick Marleau turning invisible and Jonathan Cheechoo dogged by injuries, but uber-checker Sami Pahlsson has negated the Sharks' only overall form of putting the puck in the net: Joe Thornton. Tuesday night, at even strength alone, Pahlsson was on the ice for 11:30 of Thornton's 13:03 total 5-on-5 icetime. It is inexcusable that, despite having last change as the home team, Thornton spends that much time on the ice and that's decidedly a coaching problem. If Wilson can shield Thornton from Pahlsson's line and the recent line changes, which include a reuniting of the famed Michalek--Marleau--Bernier line, can finally create some secondary scoring, then I think the Sharks should have a good chance to win this one. If not, I think it's time for Ron and/or Doug Wilson to shake things up in order to inject some life back into this team before it's too late.

Photo: PJ Swenson, Sharkspage

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