Seriously, the San Jose Sharks are way too hot right now. Currently, the Sharks are on a six-game win streak and are tied with the Anaheim Ducks as leaders of the Pacific Division.
Who exactly have the Sharks beaten? In six games, they have taken down three playoff-contending teams. Most notably, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Also, Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (who I spent my last week questioning) has now doubled his shut-out count for the season.
But I wouldn’t start jumping for joy just yet. The Sharks now face a schedule filled with middle-of-the-pack to lower-tier teams such as the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals.
Why could this prove detrimental to the Sharks’ current ranking? Because the Sharks are the most confusing team in the NHL right now!
While the Sharks seem to have great success against some of the stronger NHL teams, they absolutely struggle with the so-called “easy” wins. Notable losses would include: twice to the Buffalo Sabers, once previously to Winnipeg, once to the Nashville Predators and twice to Carolina Hurricanes. For Pete’s sake, they only play each of these teams twice a year! Not to mention they have beaten each of these teams’ division leaders with the exception of the Atlantic Division.
Playing down to the competition could be a worthwhile explanation as to why the Sharks have struggled in the early rounds of the playoffs. Of course, nothing that happens in sports can be attributed to luck. Boston College did not upset Syracuse this year by luck. BC just could not miss from behind the three-point line.
Furthermore, the Sharks have already dropped one game to the Florida Panthers at home. So how did the Sharks manage to lose? Well, for starters Roberto Luongo made 52 saves on 54 shots. Any top divisional team should be able to convert more goals on 54 shots. The Sharks also only converted on one of six power plays. And in one of those power plays, they had a five-on-three advantage.
A similar story was told in previous losses to the Predators and Sabers. In both games the Sharks outshot their opponent, both goalies appeared to be playing out of their minds with great save percentages and more than 90 percent of the time, the Sharks failed to convert on a power play. What worries me most is not the high shot count; it is the lack of power play conversion.
This is realistically the same problem that has led to the Sharks playoff elimination for the past two seasons. In all eight losses, to both the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings, the Sharks had converted almost none of their power play opportunities. In fact, as of right now the Sharks rank 16th out of 30 in the NHL for power play goals. Sure, there are probably some more problems that contribute to the Sharks’ poor play against both lower-tier teams and in the playoffs. However, I think one of the most wildly underrated factors in the Sharks key losses are the lack of special teams success. If you can find reasonable success on all three sides of the puck, then how can you lose?