SAN JOSE - Calling any Sharks game "a big test" has become an understatement since every game the team plays now is a challenge to see if they can climb out of the hole they've dug themselves into in the first month of the season.
But after a difficult road trip that yielded some less-than-stellar results, Team Teal kicks off a month chock-full of home games with a six-contest stint at SAP Center.
This sets the stage for a team down on its luck to really, truly, turn things around. Whether they can turn the page will say a lot about where they are as a team.
For starters, it's no secret that home ice has treated the Sharks very well in past seasons. In fact, they are 94-55-15 overall in the South Bay since Peter DeBoer took over as coach at the start of the 2015-16 season.
That being said, this campaign has already offered up new challenges and with just four games played at The Tank so far this season, it's hard to get a grasp on exactly how this six-game homer could play out.
Here's what we do know. San Jose is 2-2-0 at home so far this season and has given up just as many goals as they have scored at 12 apiece. Their penalty kill has been immaculate and their power play has been successful 26.7 percent of the time. We also know that the Sharks are playing all Western Conference teams on this six-game stretch and they are currently sitting at 2-4-0 and are being outscored 22-13 against such teams.
So, what's a team have to do to get over the hump?
Staying out of the penalty box would be a good start. Yes, the Sharks still have the best kill in the league. (Although not by very much after the Bruins tallied two PPGs in last Tuesday's game in Boston.) But San Jose is currently ranked third in the league for going to the sin bin an average 4.21 times per game. It's no wonder the Sharks' five-on-five game is having so much trouble establishing a regular rhythm.
And as fans are probably well aware, scoring has been an issue through the first 13 games of the 2019-20 campaign as San Jose is being outscored in all three periods of play.
The Sharks' need to make a big turnaround doesn't just have to do with their overall record, but how their recent road trip ended. After a convincing win over the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose's game unraveled over a three-game span. Sure, they were able to keep pace with the Toronto Maple Leafs on the tail end of a back-to-back and only let off the gas in the final five or so minutes of play. But they followed that up with a flat-footed effort against the Ottawa Senators and then were overpowered by the Bruins. After looking like they made some improvements to their game earlier in the road trip, the Sharks showed there's still plenty of work to be done.
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San Jose has a test right out of the gate with back-to-back games to open up their homestand against the Jets -- who aren't playing as well as expected -- and the Canucks -- who have won eight of their last 10 games and are on a two-win streak. Regardless of how either opponent is playing, the Sharks need to get off on the right foot this weekend and get some momentum going in the right direction.
Whatever the result, it should be an interesting homestand for the Sharks. It could also say a lot about where they are.