The Blue Jackets welcome the San Jose Sharks to Nationwide Arena to kick off a three-game home stand. The Blue Jackets snapped a losing streak on Friday night that began after they defeated the Sharks in San Jose back on Oct. 23. But for a team with no shortage of big names on offense, the Sharks have had some surprising struggles of their own.
San Jose sits eighth in the Western Conference and scoring has not been the problem. The Sharks’ 53 goals are tied for second most in the Western Conference. They've struggled defensively, however, surrendering the seventh-most goals in hockey. Their uncharacteristic hot-and–cold performance has them hovering near the .500 mark.
San Jose is coming off a 2-1 win on the road against a talented Lightning team and also had strong wins over the Islanders and Stars during the month of November. Those wins are surrounded by a loss to the Panthers on Tuesday in which they surrendered four goals, not to mention a home loss to the Sabres two days after they hosted the Blue Jackets. After a 4-0-1 start to the season, San Jose is 5-7-1.
The Blue Jackets were at SAP Center in San Jose on Oct. 23, their last win before their recent nine-game losing streak. The Blue Jackets mounted two comebacks, including a last-minute goal, to beat the Sharks.
San Jose jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and Columbus answered with three in the second including two from Ryan Johansen. The back-and-forth action continued in the third, with the Sharks scoring twice. Nick Foligno tied it on the power play midway through the period and Mark Letestu netted the game-winner (second of the night) with 21 seconds to go. Including Joe Pavelski, the game had three multi-goal scorers.
Brent Burns was moved back on defense this season, and he’s been so effective back there that some are calling for him to be moved back to forward to balance the Sharks scoring attack. Burns leads the Sharks in scoring with 17 points in 18 games, not a small feat on a team with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Burns has size and strength that made him one of the game’s better power forwards. It suits him on defense as well, where his heavy shot makes him a power play fixture. But it’s not all power and strength from Burns. His deft hands and heady presence makes him a good set-up man and a reliable puck-mover.
Boone Jenner’s back in the lineup and has jumped right into the mix. He has four points in five games, all assists, but has been a perfect fit alongside Scott Hartnell. Hartnell’s offense comes around the front of the net, and Jenner’s game is most suited for working deep in the offensive zone and below the goal line. The result? A lot of turnovers and a lot of pucks in the dangerous area in the slot for Hartnell to attack. The goals will come for Jenner as well, as Hartnell plays a physical game himself. Jenner will continue to impact games as he and Hartnell become more comfortable together. On a team struggling to produce consistently, Jenner’s return has been a boost.
The Blue Jackets' power play roared to life in Philadelphia with three goals and had a major impact in the game. Their penalty kill? Not so much. The Flyers were 2-for-3 on the man advantage, with Michael Del Zotto’s goal coming literally exactly as the third penalty expired. The Sharks boast the sixth-best power play in the NHL (one place behind Columbus after their big night), but they are even more dangerous than that number suggests. Between Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Brent Burns, the Sharks have five players that would each be the best power play producer on almost any other team. Together, they are lethal. The Columbus penalty kill must contain this power play threat. The best way to do it? Don’t give it many opportunities.