Tonight the Sharks face the Blues, a team that for some reason has only played nine games. How is it possible that the Sharks came all the way back from Europe, had an entire week off, and have managed to play more games than the Blues? What's going on here?
The Blues are an impressive 6-1-2 so far this year, having given up the second-fewest goals against in the entire league (if it weren't for that freak Tim Thomas they'd be leading this stat for sure. Curse him!). Jaroslav Halak is proving that last season's success wasn't a fluke. He's been annoyingly good so far, starting eight games and having a .932 save percentage.
Frankly, teams like this worry me. The Sharks suck against stingy defenses with strong goalies, and that's the kind of team the Blues are. As we have clearly seen over the past two weeks, the Sharks can totally pick apart a team with weak D or shaky goaltending (the Ducks, the Devils, the Oilers, and the Avalanche) but struggle to score at all against teams that are stronger in these positions (the Flames and Wild). To put it mildly, this is troubling. I don't care how many goals you score on teams that aren't going to make the playoffs. I'd be more impressed with the Sharks scoring three goals tonight against the Blues than I would be with another 5-2 win over the Ducks.
The Sharks will get a lot of shots tonight. Shots are never the problem. The trouble the Sharks have is that good defenses can make sure the shots are taken from low-percentage areas and good goalies have an easy time stopping those kinds of shots. In the last game against the Wild the Sharks had times when they looked very strong offensively, but they ended up with nothing to show for it. This was also disappointing because it was, overall, a great defensive game for the Sharks. They really limited the number of shots the Wild were put on net despite taking a number of stupid penalties, and the only goal poor Niittymaki gave up was on an extended 5-3.
Tonight the Sharks need to concentrate on forcing good shots and getting traffic in front of Halak. This team has too much talent to make a habit out of getting shut out. We don't need five goals to win - if they can play solid defense like they have for the past few games, three goals should do it.
Prediction: The Sharks win 3-1, with goals from Marleau, Mitchell, and Clowe.