The San Jose Sharks made the wrong kind of history on Friday night.
They led by three goals after two periods and lost to the Ottawa Senators, the first time in franchise history they’d accomplished such a feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via statistician Darin Stephens). It’s undoubtedly a dubious distinction, but such a result shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected, due to score effects.
When teams build big leads, they play a more conservative style and tend to sacrifice offense in order to preserve that lead. Trailing teams, by contrast, play far more aggressively in order to overcome their large deficit.
Score effects were on full display Friday night, and a rather extreme case at that. The Sharks entered the third period with a 41-34 five-on-five shot attempt advantage, and ended regulation trailing 65-56 in five-on-five shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Once Ottawa tied the game, though, San Jose out-attempted their opponents 12-5, per hockeystats.ca. Again, that’s to be expected: when adjusting for score effects, the Sharks are one of the league’s best possession teams and the Senators are one of the worst.
So, San Jose achieved an ignominious first on the second night of a back-to-back, and they should be able to dust their hands off and shift their attention to Winnipeg, right? After all, it was just one of those games.
The problem, of course, is that the Sharks have had two of those games in less than a week. The first was their 2017-ending blowout loss in Dallas, where San Jose also allowed six goals.
With clunkers in half of their games so far, the road trip has been largely uninspiring. The Sharks have controlled just 48.29 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts in four games, and a paltry 46.84 percent when adjusting for score, according to Corsica Hockey.
In fact, dating back to Dec. 14, when San Jose started a stretch of six games within the Pacific Division, they’ve attempted just 48.76 percent of the shots in score-adjusted situations. The Sharks went 4-1-1 over that stretch, but the team hasn’t playing its best hockey for a while and they’re no longer getting the results to mask it.
San Jose will get a league-mandated five days off following their Sunday matinee against the Jets, and it will come at an ideal time. The Sharks have been far from their best on this road trip, and will need to improve following the break if they want any chance of catching up to Vegas and Los Angeles.