There's something about playing the Montreal Canadiens that prompts the Sharks to turn their game around.
San Jose is 14-4-0 against the Habs dating back to 2005, and some of those wins have occurred when the Sharks needed them the most. In Dec. 2015, San Jose broke out of a seven-game losing streak by beating the Habs in Montreal 3-1. In more recent history, a four-game losing streak -- which was followed by a closed-door meeting -- was snapped by another 3-1 victory at Bell Centre that turned the Sharks 2018-19 season around.
Now, in the first month of their 2019-20 campaign, San Jose could use another one of those turnarounds.
Granted, San Jose is facing some new problems this season than they were when they last defeated Montreal. They aren't coming off a lengthy losing streak or having glaring issues with their goaltending. This time around, however, the team is trying to establish its identity while integrating new players -- and that process hasn't exactly been a smooth one. Miscues and turnovers continue to end up in the back of San Jose's net, and getting a solid 60-minute game out of all four lines is still a work in progress.
Even with three straight victories in the middle of the month and some clear signs of improvement, the Sharks are still at the bottom of the Pacific Division. Plus, their current swing through the East Coast isn't going to get any easier. Perhaps playing against a team who they've fared well against in the past will turn things around?
To be clear, this isn't to say that there's some otherworldly magic that comes from the Sharks playing the Habs. Simply that the Sharks are playing them at yet another point of a season where they need to elevate their game.
San Jose is coming off of back-to-back losses to the Buffalo Sabres, and even though they got a point out of Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss, they also blew a 2-0 lead. Erik Karlsson told reporters afterward that "by no means should we be satisfied" despite picking up the one point. Head coach Peter DeBoer said he thinks the team is getting better, but "we're still not where we want to be."
Not every Shark is heading into Thursday's game on the struggle bus, mind you. Karlsson himself will take the ice in Montreal on a five-game assist streak and tallied his first goal of the season on Tuesday night.
Logan Couture has points in seven of nine games so far this season. Young center Dylan Gambrell scored his first regular-season goal in Tuesday's game and continues to play a key role in making San Jose's fourth line more effective.
Even San Jose's goaltending looks better than it did last season -- there's no denying Martin Jones was a big reason Jack Eichel didn't allow the Sabres to run away with Tuesday's game in Buffalo.
But the fact is, the Sharks still need to turn things around if they're going to recover from a rough start to their season. And there's no better time for them to do that than on Thursday night against the Habs in Montreal.