The Sharks relied heavily on November (11 wins) to compensate for their devastating October results (four wins).
Now here in December (maximum of three wins), they’ll need a strong showing in January (11 games) to keep any hopes of postseason contention alive.
But the first month of 2020 sets up much different than the 11th month of 2019.
November vs January
November featured 11 home games, and just four on the road. Time to practice and recuperate was abundant back then. The Sharks only left California twice, and the furthest east they traveled… was Arizona.
January is nearly the complete opposite. Seven games away from SAP Center, and the other four are on home ice. Games every other night for almost three full weeks means there won’t be much quality practice time in-between, which is especially imperative for the new coaching staff to address and implement strategic changes.
Third week off
After nine games in 18 days of January, San Jose will see eight straight days without games. This is the result of All-Star Weekend and the NHL’s annual mandated break.
Could that long break turn out beneficial? Sure.
Could it also be a momentum destroyer? Unfortunately, yes.
We don’t yet know what impact that stretch will have — only that’s it’s almost a guarantee there will be some tangible effects on the team.
Sid, Ovi… and Pavelski
The matchups in January are not just difficult, they’re heavy. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin at their barns. The defending Cup champion Blues, in St. Louis. And don’t sleep on that Western swing through Arizona, Colorado and Vancouver: three hungry Pacific division teams that aren’t anything like they used to be.
But the real interesting night will be Jan. 11 in San Jose. The return of former captain Joe Pavelski. His Dallas Stars are pretty much where they expected in the standings, facing a Sharks group that nobody predicted to see in last place in the Western Conference after Christmas. Emotions will run deeper, and different for this tilt.
Back-to-back body blows
Acclimation to the Eastern Time zone is already difficult enough. But San Jose’s ONLY back-to-back games in January start at 10 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. California time, respectively.
There are no claims of unfairness, but Columbus and Washington will have distinct and inherent advantages in these games. San Jose in the last decade rarely has been themselves when faced with games that end before lunch does back home.