The San Jose Sharks have finished their opening homestand, and it was certainly a difficult one. They opened the season against their rivals and the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Vegas Golden Knights. Next, they faced the reigning Central Division champions, the Colorado Avalanche before finishing it up against the Metropolitan Division champions, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Atlantic Division champion Boston Bruins. It’s literally impossible for them to have a more difficult start to the season, but they did fairly well for themselves despite their winless record.
Meanwhile, in the American Hockey League, the San Jose Barracuda also finished their first homestand against the Rockford IceHogs earlier this week and now they’re off to Henderson to face the Silver Knights. First, though, let’s talk about the Sharks.
Stayed Close to Tough Competition
After their opening game, the one phrase that was uttered more than anything by both players and coaching staff was “38 minutes”. The Sharks stuck with the Vegas Golden Knights for 38 minutes. At that point, the game went from a 1-1 tie to a 3-1 Vegas lead in under two minutes. The Sharks never fully recovered, but it was impressive that they were able to compete with the reigning champions for the majority of the game. Next, the Sharks held the Avalanche goalless for 58 minutes, however, a lack of goal support came back to haunt them when Cale Makar spoiled Mackenzie Blackwood’s SAP Center debut by tying the game with a minute and a half remaining. Eventually, they fell in the shootout, but the first two games could have gone in San Jose’s favor if they had played better for the final two minutes of the period.
The last two games of the homestand didn’t look as close on the scoreboard, and realistically the Sharks played their worst game of the season so far against the Carolina Hurricanes. Ironically, that was the game in which they got the most goal support though. They held a 3-2 lead going into the third period, but their poor discipline caught up with them as two quick power-play goals for Carolina halfway through the period made it 4-3 in favor of the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes then scored two goals within a minute to make it 6-3 and put the game away.
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The Sharks played a much better game against the Boston Bruins, but bad luck and a lack of goal support made it seem fairly one-sided on the scoreboard. The Bruins ended up winning 3-1 and as a result, the Sharks ended their homestand with only a single point through four games. One takeaway from this though is that the Sharks were able to compete with elite teams for a majority of each of the games, except in their final game in which Boston was dominant in regards to the scoresheet.
Major Improvements Needed
One area in which the Sharks need to improve drastically is their goal support. They’ve had relatively strong goaltending in most games, but a lack of goal support, particularly when it comes to even-strength play, is the reason they’re ending the first homestand without a victory. If they had one more goal during the game against Colorado, Blackwood’s debut would’ve ended much differently.
The biggest concern in this regard would be the lack of scoring from the team’s top players. Tomas Hertl has been making plays, and that’s reflected in his assist numbers, but he has yet to put a puck in the back of the net himself. Alexander Barabanov has been essentially invisible in the offensive zone so far. The rookies, Thomas Bordeleau and William Eklund each have a goal, but they will need to get on the score sheet more often moving forward if this team is going to have any type of success this season. Filip Zadina on the other hand, has had a great start to the season and seems to have his career on the right track moving forward.
The Sharks have had a couple of power-play goals, but overall the power play has not looked great at any point. Our Alex Hutton went more in-depth on the special teams so far earlier this week, but as a final note on it, it’s clear that the Sharks need more out of both their power play and more recently their penalty kill.
The Sharks had better discipline against the Bruins, but against Carolina and Colorado, it was a major issue. Against the Avalanche, they gave one of the best power play units in the league five opportunities with the man advantage. Fortunately for the Sharks, Colorado wasn’t able to convert on any of their opportunities but it did give them a lot more time to sustain pressure and tire out the defense and goaltender. They didn’t get as lucky against Carolina though, as they converted on three of their seven opportunities on the power play. Considering it was a 6-3 victory for the Hurricanes, the Sharks’ lack of discipline was literally the difference between a loss and potentially extending the game.
Lastly, when Blackwood is in the net, the Sharks need to do a better job of preventing shots on goal. It seems like they allow a relatively normal amount of shots when Kahkonen is between the pipes, but Blackwood has certainly not been as lucky. He’s faced 94 shots through his first two games in teal, which is simply not sustainable for any goaltender.
The Barracuda certainly had an eventful start to their season. They lost their season opener to Rockford 7-2, before winning their second matchup by the same score. Ozzy Weisblatt earned himself a three-game suspension during the opener, following a hit to the head of Kale Howarth. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being a physical player, this is an important season for the former first-round draft pick, and getting taken out of the lineup immediately isn’t a great start. This is the type of hit that they’ll need to get taken out of his game, as it was uncalled for and completely unnecessary.
During the second game of the season, Ethan Cardwell opened the scoring with his first professional goal. He currently has the fourth most points on the Barracuda with two, behind Justin Bailey with four points as well as Cole Cassels and Ryan Carpenter who have three a piece.
The Sharks are heading on a five-game road trip to end the month of October and things certainly won’t be getting much easier. First, they’ll head to Nashville on the 21st before heading south to Florida to play the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Next, they’ll visit the Hurricanes and Washington Capitals before heading back to the Bay Area.
For the Barracuda, they’ll have a short road trip to Henderson then head back home for a home game against the Silver Knights before a two-game homestand against the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
The Sharks have had a rough start to their season, but that was expected given the nature of their schedule. They have yet to win a game, but they seemed to stick with the elite teams of the NHL better than expected for the most part. The Barracuda on the other hand have had a rollercoaster of a start, and I’m sure they’re hoping things settle down a bit in the next few weeks.
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