Remember last month when the San Jose Sharks were taking a huge bite (pardon the pun) out of the Western Conference, frequently dispatching their adversaries with three- or four-goal games? They won every single game played in the month of January, including a 4-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche, and won both on the road and at home. Patrick Marleau (above) was scoring like hot cakes and captain Joe Thornton was looking great too, proving that older players can still get it done too and providing good leadership–both of them wear letters–for the rest of their team.
The difference between January and February is like the difference between night and day for San Jose.
The Sharks have not been able to win any game they’ve played so far this month and they already have six under their belts. Their goal production has suddenly taken a huge drop as they’ve been shut out twice and were handily defeated 6-2 by none other than the Columbus Blue Jackets. Granted, both of those shutouts came in extra time, so the Sharks did earn consolation points from both of those occasions, but aside from one other point earned from a different shootout loss, that’s it for San Jose so far in February.
Marleau has completely cooled off and has scored just one goal so far this month compared to his nine-goal output last month. Thornton has yet to score a single goal in any game in the month of February and has only an assist to his name.
Suddenly, a team that many thought would challenge for Western Conference supremacy and even–dare I say it?–go further than ever before in the playoffs is looking a little less strong. Sure, they’re definitely still in the playoff structure right now with 17 points in the standings, putting them in fourth place. Banking points from the good times to help in the bad times is the explanation for that one.
But can the Sharks turn things around from here? Can they just write off the past few games as a slump and turn the corner? The bad news for them is that their next opponents are none other than the Chicago Blackhawks, a genuine superpower in the West. Boasting a 10-0-3 record and a +16 goal differential compared to San Jose’s 7-3-3 and +7 goal differential, Chicago has already beaten San Jose once this season by a 5-3 tally. They’re also very happy to be back on home ice after being forced on a road trip due to other events in the United Center, so that could boost them.
The Sharks still have time to right the course of their ship and start to improve over their shoddy start to February. They should also keep in mind that the New Jersey Devils were seeded fourth in their conference in the lockout-shortened 1995 season, but went on to win the Stanley Cup. It’s decision time for the men in teal: where will they go from here?