"I refuse to 'look up.' Optimism nauseates me. It is perverse. Since man's fall, his proper position in the universe has been one of misery." -J. Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
The last seven games for the Sharks have looked like this:
So good news, everyone: tonight the Sharks are going to win!
Seven games is long enough to make any sort of adjustment you need to make. Clearly this team doesn't know what it needs to change to get things going in the right direction. The only thing they're consistent about is that they shoot a lot: they're still number one in the league in that category. That's good, for sure, and when you see that the second- and third-place teams in shots per game, Detroit and Philadelphia, both have 17 wins already, you think that maybe it's only a matter of time before the Sharks start stringing together some wins. But then you see that Buffalo has the fifth-most shots per game and the Florida Panthers have the seventh-most, and you start to think that the Sharks might need to do more than just shoot to win.
Working the Corners reports that Wallin and Demers should be back tonight, so that's good news. Detroit really took advantage of the Sharks' shallow defense when these two teams met a week ago, so any help in that department is a big positive.
Scoring is a problem right now. In the last four losses the Sharks have scored five goals total. For a team with so much salary tied up in a few elite forwards, this is a glaring issue. It would be easier to accept this team's struggles if, as some predicted prior to the season, they were a team like the Washington Capitals, scoring a lot but giving up a lot of goals too - but that's not happening. Some games, the Sharks just don't get anything going offensively.
McLellan is mixing up the lines again tonight, possibly trying Patrick Marleau with Joe Pavelski and Jamie McGinn. Whatever. McLellan goes back and forth on how to best use the Sharks' big three: one day he'll say that the best strategy is to have them on three separate lines so the opponent can't match-up easily against them, then that won't work and the next day he'll put them back together on the top line, then that will sort of work but not really.
McLellan has identified one of the Sharks' core problems in one of the quotes Working the Corners features, as he discussed the need to go hard to the net with Patrick Marleau. The Sharks already have the "throw the puck at the net" thing down, so now they just need to make sure they always have someone parked in front of the opposing goalie creating screens and hunting for rebounds. It doesn't seem like it should be so difficult, really - but that's what's maddening about sports, I guess.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-1 specifically to remind the Red Wings of last year's playoffs. Goals by Pavelski, Marleau, Couture, and Nichol.