The San Jose Sharks' historic trip to Sweden to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in a home-and-home series resulted in three out of a four possible points in the standing. The Sharks took the first game, but lost the second in overtime.
While three out of four points is a pace for 123 on the regular season, easily good for the top record in the league, the Sharks are once again the favourites to win their division, while the Jackets will be lucky to finish at the .500 pace they set for the trip.
There were a several disturbing things from the Sharks over the weekend:
- The original goalie San Jose acquired to be the main man in net
has still not been impressive wearing the Sharks logo. allowing three
goals on 25 shots (.880 save percentage). It may take swallowing his
pride, but the right thing for Doug Wilson to do is waive Niittymaki and
give Thomas Greiss a chance to be the team's second goalie for far less
money, perhaps giving the team more cap room for other moves.
- San Jose struggled five-on-five, netting only one goal in two games. One cannot rely on opposition penalties to get scores.
- Because of the above, nine players (half the skaters) are in the negative in plus/minus rating, while no one is in the positive.
- Too many Sharks are making trips to the sin bin, with 14 penalties over the weekend (two fighting majors).
- The Sharks lost in all three stats related to hustle: hits,
blocked shots, and faceoffs, although the former two are partially
because they did spend more time on the attack (see below).
On the other hand, there were several positives, as well:
- Newly appointed captain Joe Thornton scored a goal in each game, and fans can hope the "C" on his sweater has something to do with less reluctance to shoot. While a better passer than shooter, he has a good shot that, when taken with more frequency, will keep defences and goalies honest and open up pass opportunities.
- The Sharks drew eight minor penalties in both games, and scored four goals. That is a very impressive job putting the opposition in the box and still a 25 percent success rate on the power play.
- San Jose only allowed one power play goal against, giving them a penalty kill percentage of 91.7.
- They controlled the puck well, getting over 30 shots in each game and allowing under 30.
- Annti Niemi played well, allowing two goals on 28 shots (.928 save percentage) and adding an assist.
Because of the strain of overseas travel, the Sharks do not play again until Saturday, October 16, when they host the revamped Atlanta Thrashers. Hopefully, the Bay Area will have the momentum of a baseball playoff victory over Atlanta to ride through that game.