Edmonton Oilers (29-23-4) at San Jose Sharks (37-8-9)
7:30 PM PST
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking a 1-1-3 road trip is the harbinger of doom we've waited for all season long. In the next few days, HP Pavilion ice will flood over, the giant shark head will come alive and eat Todd McLellan, and Patrick Marleau will lose a limb to a severe bout of leprosy. The sky is falling, and it's landing on SJ Sharkie's loveable fuzzy head.
Well, I got news for you pal. The sky is not falling, there are no biblical plagues engulfing Santa Clara Street, and the Sharks are far, far, far, far from done. This little stretch is not the unraveling of San Jose. Just think, if the Phoenix Coyotes were 1-1-3 in their last freakin' home stand, Wayne Gretzky would be doing somersaults on Darren Pang's head. (Furious somersaults, of course; we all know how mad Wayne gets.)
Nope, I am still confident in the boys in teal. Yeah, they've made their mistakes lately, but really, that's why I'm confident. They've made the mistakes -- they hold the responsibility. Who took bad penalties? Joe Thornton, Rob Blake, and a few others. Who made bad turnovers? Christian Ehrhoff, Rob Blake, and a few others.
In each of the games the Sharks lost, they had plenty of opportunities to win. In some cases, they had the lead. Bad decisions, selfish penalties, and undisciplined play led to key breakdown sequences which caused the opposition to score.
I'm not making excuses. Rather, I'm saying that these things are lapses in judgment that can be corrected through a little video review and a stern lecture. It's not like the Sharks were just totally and hopelessly overmatched in each of these contests. Remember, they essentially went .500 on the road trip. Could they have done better? Sure. A bounce here, a bounce there, and a few less bad penalties and the Sharks could have easily turned a few more of those OT/SOLs into wins.
It's a process, though. It's what Todd McLellan's been preaching from Day 1. It doesn't matter if you win or lose so much as how you win or lose because that's how you learn, that's how you prepare.
And look, no one likes to point to injuries but when a flu bug travels through a whole team, especially on a long road trip, fatigue factors in for even the guys that suit up. We still haven't seen this entire team at 100% (and I'm beginning to wonder if we even will since Torrey Mitchell seems to keep getting set back in his recovery), and while the top two lines have luckily been fairly free from significant injury, the third and fourth lines have burned the frequent flyer miles to Worcestor.
It's a long season, it's a process, so no one panic yet. And besides, a little adversity finally gives me something to rant about.
By the way, isn't it about time for a pizza?
Prediction: Sharks 4, Oilers 2. Goals by Thornton, Boyle, and Cheechoo (2). (I'm giving a little love to the Cheechoo Train as he's been playing with a nice bit of nastiness lately...now if someone could just feed him the damn puck so he could shoot.)