It is the question of questions amongst Sharks faithful: "How exactly did we get here?"
The Tipping Point: San Jose was relatively comfortable, both in their play and their standing through the month of January, which saw them sport a 9-3-2 record. It was a Feb. 4 game in Phoenix where the troubles began appearing in the results.
Coincidentally, this one-game roadie was also the Sharks' annual fathers trip, where players bring their dads on the team plane and to the games. Since then, the team has spiraled to a 5-12-3 record. You might recall last year's fathers trip was also a turning point in San Jose's season...only in the opposite direction. They went 25-6-4 to finish off their regular season campaign after getting some inspiration from the dads.
"Chasing their game": That's how head coach Todd McLellan put it after returning from the season-long nine-game road trip in February. He described trying to fix one part of their game, only to find another began showing troubles. For example, after addressing and correcting defensive miscues, the team would have issues scoring goals. Or after getting the power play back on track, the penalty kill would fail the team. It's like the old cartoon reference: you plug one leak just to find another spring up before your eyes.
On a basic level, San Jose has continued to "chase their game" during this rut. In the beginning of February, the Sharks had no problem scoring the puck, but could not hold enough teams below that all-important reference point of three markers. Then, the challenge became goaltending, where starter Antti Niemi was uncharacteristically pulled in two of three starts. Then Niemi found his groove again...only to face his own team in a scoring slump. The Sharks have just 12 tallies in the last eight games. Simply put, San Jose has endured a multitude of challenges with their game, not just a singular one.
Lack of traction: The best metaphor I can make of the Sharks is this: A tire stuck in the mud. The wheels are spinning awfully hard at times, but the car is not going anywhere. In fact, sometimes it's making the hole deeper. There is a lack of traction right now for San Jose to get themselves out of the dirty stuff and moving forward with their season. As is the case with any streak, the Sharks have trouble getting consistent positive results. It's been win one, lose one. Win one, lose four. Win one, lose two. Win one, lose five. And so on.
Here are some facts that are difficult to swallow:
- The Sharks have not won back to back games in six weeks (Jan. 31, Feb. 2)
- The Sharks have not won back to back games on the road in more than two months (Jan 12, 14)
- The Sharks have not won by a multiple goal margin in more than four weeks (Feb. 13, 5-3 vs. WAS)
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