After a 7-0 start to the season, the San Jose Sharks have seen their scoring cool off in their past two games. They lost to the Nashville Predators in a shootout on Saturday, then suffered their first regulation loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night. Now, the Sharks face their toughest test of the young season – a Tuesday night meeting with the NHL-leading Chicago Blackhawks. If the Sharks hope to win this matchup, they need to learn from their first two losses.
A factor in last night’s loss was the play of Thomas Greiss, who forfeited a lead. Obviously the team chose to save Antti Niemi to face the Blackhawks (his former team), but the loss to the red-hot Ducks showed that Niemi may need to be ready to go on back-to-back nights for big games in the future.
The Sharks seemed to be able to score at will through their first five games, but have now managed just six total goals in their last four games. Power play struggles have also become a big problem as the team that was regularly converting two to three times per game has just one power play goal in the last 18 chances (four games). The Blackhawks have the league’s best penalty kill, making it even tougher for the Sharks to improve their special teams quickly.
San Jose could use some scoring from their third and fourth lines, and any offensive help from a defenseman not named Dan Boyle would be a welcome sign as well. The top talent on this team–Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau–need to get back to the way they were playing to start the season if they hope to stop this slide.
Tonight’s matchup has become one of the most anticipated games of the young season and the Sharks hope it will be the first loss of the season for the Blackhawks.