The San Jose Sharks are falling apart.
They lost four-straight games to start the season and had lost another four in a row heading into Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. That includes a 5-2 loss to the awful Ottawa Senators, who have won just three games all season.
The Sharks are now dead last in the Western Conference, with the second-worst goal differential in the NHL at minus-20. Sharks blog Fear the Fin is full of articles with titles like Everything is bad, What’s wrong with the Sharks?, and Rock bottom. Morale is low.
Some suggest that head coach Pete DeBoer is on the hot seat for his team’s shoddy start, but when you look at their off-season, you have to wonder what general manager Doug Wilson was thinking. Wilson has a solid track record as a GM, but the 2019 off-season was a disaster.
Wilson lost Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist and did little to replace them. He looked at a goaltending tandem that had a combined .889 save percentage and made no attempt to upgrade in net, keeping both goaltenders. Meanwhile, the inexorable passing of time continued to happen despite Wilson’s best efforts — attempts to locate the mythical Fountain of Youth during a month-long search in the Caribbean proved fruitless — and the Sharks’ aging veterans continued to get older.
Heck, Wilson went out of his way to make his team older, bringing back 40-year-old Patrick Marleau to re-join 40-year-old Joe Thornton.
Things are starting to look bleak for the Sharks and their long-term deals for their core players are starting to look like they could be millstones in the future. That’s particularly true for the one-time fancy-stat darling Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is signed for $7 million per year through 2026 and starting goaltender Martin Jones, who is signed for $5.75 million through 2024.
Could the Sharks still turn things around this season? Maybe, but certainly not yet. Heading into Saturday night’s game against the Canucks, the Sharks were still in a downward spiral, losing to the Winnipeg Jets the night before on a last-minute goal in the third period, a demoralizing loss given they out-shot the Jets 53-to-19.
Like a shark, the Canucks could smell the blood in the water. Unlike the Sharks, they scored a bunch of goals on their shots. It was a feeding frenzy when I watched this game.
- At this point, the Sharks are basically Rosie the Shark, the dead shark floating in a tank of formaldehyde that was found in an abandoned wildlife park near Melbourne, Australia earlier this year: rotting, falling apart, and surrounded by garbage. Perhaps someone new can come along, like a new coach or GM, and restore the Sharks to their former glory, like Tom Kapitany of Crystal World is trying to do with Rosie.
- Josh Leivo is like Hercules aka. The Beast from The Sandlot, only he doesn’t hound baseballs, he hounds pucks. His effort on the Canucks’ opening goal was unbelievable, first out-battling Vlasic behind the net, then shaking off both Vlasic and Timo Meier to get a shot on goal. Aaron Dell made a blocker save, but Sutter took the rebound and patiently tucked it around the flailing goaltender.
- For the second time in as many games, a Canucks’ defenceman was knocked out of the game in the first period leaving the Canucks with just five defencemen. Quinn Hughes was fortunate to only suffer a bruised knee after his leg twisted awkwardly last game, but was held out of the lineup against the Sharks. In to replace him was Ashton Sautner, who took an ugly hit from Brendan Dillon behind the Sharks net and left the game.
- I didn’t like the hit at all. Sautner made a nice rush up the left wing, then tried to centre the puck to Jay Beagle. After he released the puck, he traveled a good 15-20 feet before Dillon hit him, catching him completely unaware. Sautner was sent flying and seemed to hit his chin on the ice. He stayed down on the ice for a while before making his way back to the bench where he sat slumped over, holding his head in obvious distress.
Was Brenden Dillon's hit on Ashton Sautner late? I mean, it was later than Aaron Rome on Nathan Horton, so you tell me. pic.twitter.com/Eq3WlEvEYA— Daniel Wagner (@passittobulis) November 3, 2019
- The loss of Sautner meant big minutes for the rest of the Canucks defence, particularly Alex Edler, who played 59 minutes and 43 seconds across these two back-to-back games. That’s not ideal for a defenceman that missed 26 games last season.
- Despite being short-staffed and likely just as fatigued as the Sharks from playing the previous night, the Canucks looked full of energy, perhaps because their first line — the Lotto Line of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and J.T. Miller — is collectively 25 years younger than the Sharks first line of Marleau, Logan Couture, and Timo Meier. That youthful first line struck for the 2-0 goal.
- With no one up with him on the rush, Pettersson got sneaky. He slowed down through the neutral zone, waited until Dillon committed to aggressively pursuing him, then put the puck to space behind the defenceman. Boeser, meanwhile, came flying in with a head of steam to skate onto the puck, and flung a shot towards the net. It deflected off a stick and bounced in front, where Pettersson made like someone that honed their hand-eye coordination by juggling while riding a unicycle, and swatted the puck out of midair and into the net.
- Or maybe it wasn't the juggling after all...
Regarding his batted goal, I asked Elias Pettersson if they play baseball in Sweden.— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) November 3, 2019
"No, but I played a lot of badminton this summer."
- I’m still not 100% certain that Jake Virtanen’s goal to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead actually went into the net, but I do know that Virtanen made a great burst up the middle of the ice and Edler made a superb pass to spring him on a breakaway. Virtanen’s backhand went under Dell’s arm, but it looked like Dell had managed to swing his left leg back to keep the puck from going over the goal line. Virtanen’s best move on the breakaway was his immediate and extremely confident goal celebration: it was very convincing and I feel it may have had an influence on the referee calling it a goal on the ice.
- The moment the puck seems to cross the goal line might be a moment later than you expect. Dell swung his leg around and managed to pin the puck against the post, then kick it out. After he kicks it out, however, the puck hits the toe of Dell’s right pad and goes back over the goal line. Apparently. I think.
- Here’s the view of the puck supposedly crossing the goal line — it might help if you say “Enhance!” at the screen a couple times — followed by Virtanen’s hilariously confident assertion that it was a goal, something he couldn’t possibly have seen because his back was to the net at the only moment the puck could have actually crossed the line.
- “That’s f***ing in,” Virtanen appeared to be saying with the unearned confidence of youth. “That’s a goal.” Against all odds, he was right.
- Adam Gaudette picked up his second goal in as many games since getting back into the lineup, in much the same fashion as his last one. On a delayed penalty, Bo Horvat sent a fantastic cross-ice pass to Gaudette, who tried to relay the puck to Tanner Pearson in front, just like he tried to set up Sutter on Friday night, and just like Friday, the puck deflected in off an opponent’s skate. Gaudette’s never going to shoot again: bank shots off skates for the rest of the season.
- The Canucks’ power play continued to look disjointed without Hughes, as it struggled to move up ice and gain the zone. They managed just three shots on goal on their four power plays, though they did score a goal, taking advantage of a two-man advantage to establish possession in the offensive zone before scoring after the first penalty expired. They also gave up a shorthanded goal, so it balanced out.
- After Vlasic made it 4-1 with his goal on a shorthanded 2-on-1, Pettersson extended the lead again. After Erik Karlsson left the penalty box but before he could get back in the play, Boeser sent a hard pass to Miller that he tipped on goal. Dell made the initial stop, but Miller neatly knocked the rebound backdoor to Pettersson, who fluttered the bouncing puck over Dell’s pad for his second of the night.
- Just like that, Pettersson has four goals in his last five games and his shooting percentage on the season is 20%. I keep suggesting that Pettersson can’t maintain a shooting percentage that high and then he keeps doing it, but I’m okay with him making me look bad if it means he keeps looking so good.
- Evander Kane added a late goal to make it 5-2, finishing off his own rebound on a 2-on-1. He celebrated the goal with the most sad sack expression on his face, to the point that his goal celebration should have been soundtracked by “Christmas Time is Here.”
- Thatcher Demko didn’t have the busiest night, facing 26 shots from the Sharks, but he was sharp when he had to be. The only two goals he allowed came on 2-on-1 rushes and he was otherwise solid as a rock. His .938 save percentage is now fourth in the NHL.
- It was not, however, a great night for the fourth line. Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, and Tim Schaller got hemmed into their own zone a couple times. Eriksson, in particular, had it rough: he took a blatant tripping penalty on a quick pivot by Mario Ferraro and was caught standing still in the neutral zone as a 2-on-1 developed for Kane’s goal. With Sven Baertschi called up and waiting to get into the lineup, it wasn’t the best time to struggle.