SAN JOSE – There’s hasn’t been a whole lot that’s gone wrong for the Sharks so far this season, as they sit atop the Pacific Division at the All-Star break.
Their defensive structure in front of All-Star goalie Martin Jones is outstanding, Brent Burns is the Norris Trophy favorite, some promising rookies have burst onto the scene, and they are mostly healthy, even getting Tomas Hertl back after a 32-game absence.
But one area has been a glaring bugaboo -- the power play. It cost them on Thursday night at SAP Center in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers that snapped their six-game winning streak.
The Sharks went 0-for-4 with a man advantage, including a four-minute power play early in the third period with a chance to tie the game at 2-2. They didn’t get the job done, though, and Drake Caggiula’s goal at 11:31 made it a fairly stress-free final half of the third period from surging Edmonton’s perspective.
“In those situations you’ve got to find a way to score, and create a little momentum,” Joe Pavelski said. “At the end of the day you need the production, and we didn’t get it there. It was the difference in the game.”
Since Nov. 1, the Sharks are just 19-for-128 on the power play (14.8 percent). Perhaps that’s why coach Pete DeBoer figured the lengthy third period advantage was a good time to drastically shuffle his units.
He knows that’s one area that the Sharks, who finished third on the power play last season, could be a whole lot better. They sit in 22nd currently.
“Yes, just because of historically where this group has had this power play, and how dangerous it has been, and what a weapon it’s been – and it hasn’t been,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to find a way.
“The good news is, we’ve got time, and these guys have done it before. We’ve got to dig in here.”
Power play woes aside, the Sharks are in a good place as the league breaks for a few days for the annual festivities in Los Angeles. Although the loss to Edmonton was discouraging, especially considering it allowed the Oilers to tie the Sharks in points (San Jose has one game in hand, so they are technically still in first), San Jose just completed a brutal stretch of eight games in 13 days.
Prior to winning six of their final seven, the Sharks trailed Anaheim by five points. Now, they and the Oilers have a one-point lead on the Ducks.
“You always have stuff to work on, but it’s just about getting points, and we did that for the last little bit,” Burns said.
DeBoer said: “It’s tough after a game like this to feel good, but it’s been a hell of a month. I’m real proud of the group and how we’ve dug in and handled the adversity of injuries and travel and schedule.”
The Sharks could have pulled out Thursday’s game, too, despite not getting that power play conversion. Edmonton had just 21 shots to the Sharks’ 33, while San Jose out-attempted the Oilers 81-41.
Andrej Sekera’s two goals were both a bit lucky, as his first went off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and his second, a power play point shot, may have deflected off of Melker Karlsson. Those two scores turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Oilers lead.
“They threw some pucks to our net, and obviously they got a couple good bounces going their way,” Patrick Marleau said.
DeBoer said: “The defensive game wasn’t what lost us the game, it was the inability to score.”
Cam Talbot was outstanding for Edmonton, and other than Connor McDavid, he’s probably the biggest reason the Oilers look like a surefire playoff team. Edmonton also did a nice job suppressing Burns, who had two shots on goal and eight attempts blocked after two periods.
Now comes the All-Star break, and in less than a month, the bye week from Feb. 20-24. A more potent power play would help their cause for those final 32 games before the playoffs.
“As a staff we’ll do some work over the break and look for some solutions, and come back and try and get it fixed,” DeBoer said.