So there you have it. It’s the end of a seven game win streak, a terrific if not perfect home stand and the start of another huge road trip for the Sharks. And what an important 8 game stretch it was. On March 23rd the Sharks lost 2-0 in Minnesota and were a tired hockey team having played 14 of their prior 19 games on the road. It was an exhausting grind that had them in 9th place in the West at 13-11-6 record and 32 points. But two nights later in Anaheim they beat the Ducks 5-3 and it would be the start of a profound turnaround to their season.
Fast forward to this morning as they boarded their charter flight for Columbus and the Sharks are now 20-11-7 with 47 points and they are 5th in the West, only a point behind 4th placed Los Angeles but more importantly 7 points clear of the dreaded 9th spot. Not a bad little run of 7 straight wins and 8 straights games with at least a point.
All of this improvement came with the teams’ roster in transition. Douglas Murray, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus have all moved on. Raffi Torres and Scott Hannan have come aboard via trade and Matt Tennyson has made the transition up the defensive depth chart from Worcester. And with Jason Demers healthy again, head coach Todd McLellan has some flexibility to tweak his lineup. Just as important, the Sharks are getting scoring from throughout the lineup, allowing McLellan to roll four lines more frequently and keep his team fresh down the stretch.
The Sharks aren’t there yet. They’ve got 10 more games to play, 4 at home and 6 on the road, and every team they play the rest of the way still has a shot to be in the playoffs. It’s going to be a battle to the bitter end of the regular season. But if they can continue to be a sound, well-coached defensive team with excellent goaltending, solid special teams and balanced scoring, the Sharks should be a playoff team. And then….it starts all over again.
I’m Randy Hahn