Are Sharks suffering identity crisis?

March 12, 2012, 11:39 pm
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sharks Pregame Live is on CSN California at 6, followed by Sharks-Oilers at 6:30, and Sharks Postgame Live when the game ends.

EDMONTON The San Jose Sharks have some of the most skilled, most creative and most lethal scorers in the NHL.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been doing it for years, Logan Couture has emerged as one of the best offensive talents in the game today, and the veteran Dan Boyle is still one of the finest defensemen when it comes to generating offense from the blue line.

They are a team that shouldnt have trouble scoring goals.

Yet the Sharks have managed just seven markers in their last five games headed into Mondays showdown with the Edmonton Oilers, and find themselves in the unfamiliar position of trying to battle for a playoff spot in mid-March.

Its what prompted an Edmonton reporter on Monday morning to mention to McLellan that the hockey world is a little bit shocked at the possible demise of one of the NHLs powerhouse teams of the last five years.

The Sharks head coach was candid in his reply.

We are built a little bit different this year. We dont have as much scoring depth. When we understand that as a group and realize that we have to grind games out and we have to win 3-2 games instead of 4-3, we have a tendency to play a little bit better, McLellan said.

Maybe early in the year we got caught up in being an offensive team and let some games get away from us, but right now I think we understand that and we have to continue to play towards that.

If the Sharks really are, in fact, a grinding team, they could be in trouble.

Teams that employ that mentality are often on the positive side of one-goal wins. The Sharks, though, are just 15-13-9 in one-goal games, for a .405 winning percentage 24th in the NHL. San Joses 13 regulation losses by one goal is tied for the league lead with Los Angeles.

Its an important stat, too. The only team in the top 10 when it comes to one-goal winning percentage thats not in playoff position is the Buffalo Sabres. Among the bottom 10 teams, only two would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (Florida and Phoenix). That includes the 11th place Sharks.

In short, if the Sharks havent yet figured out what type of team they are with 15 games to go in the regular season, they could have plenty of time to think about it after April 7.