NASHVILLE – After getting shut out for the second time in the last three games on Tuesday, the Sharks’ scoring woes are generating some decidedly wretched numbers.
The Sharks scored three goals in a wide open first period against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 5, including a marker by Michal Handzus at 10:47, giving San Jose a 3-1 lead. The Sharks would go on to lose that game, 5-3.
Since then, San Jose has scored just two goals over the next 236 minutes and 21 seconds. Both of those came in Columbus on Monday during a 6-2 loss, with Patrick Marleau’s second period goal and a late third period power play goal by Joe Pavelski, when the game was already decided.
That’s two goals in nearly 12 regulation periods. The decline has been sharp, after San Jose scored 23 goals in its first five games, or 4.6 per game. Since then, the Sharks have been held to two goals or less (not counting shootouts) in seven of the last eight. They’ve dropped all the way to 18th in the league in goals-per-game (2.62).
“We’ve got to find a way to score goals. We had chances,” Logan Couture said after the 1-0 overtime loss in Nashville on Tuesday. “It’s tough right now. When you get those good chances you want to bear down and want to score goals. Getting shut out two of three games isn’t going to win in this league.”
Frustration is setting in.
“You come to the rink every day to score goals. That’s what I do. When I come to the rink I want to score a goal, and I haven’t lately. It’s frustrating when you’re on the ice. You get a chance and you don’t score, and each time that happens you get frustrated a little bit more.”
Todd McLellan said: “There’s frustration in that. You can see it, and you can feel it, but the players have to work their way through it and we (the coaches) have to find ways to help them.”
It’s not just the forwards, of course. Sharks defensemen had 13 points through the first five games of the season (4g, 9a). In the last eight games, they’ve generated a total of just four points from the blue line, all assists.
Defining the flu
The Sharks have never been a team that likes to disclose medical issues with their players. And, that's their right, as the NHL doesn’t have a specific policy regarding player injuries. It’s common for teams to label injuries as “upper body” and “lower body,” which can mean any number of ailments.
But what’s gone on lately with the way the Sharks are defining the “flu bug” is a bit absurd.
We’ll start with Andrew Desjardins. The second-year center hasn’t played since Feb. 5 against Chicago, when he plastered Jamal Mayars with an open-ice check that was incorrectly called a match penalty for a hit to head. Desjardins missed practice on Feb. 8, and McLellan said he was suffering from “the sniffles.”
After missing games on Feb. 9 and Feb. 11, Desjardins was placed on injured reserve before Tuesday’s game in Nashville. McLellan repeated after the Nashville game that Desjardins is still suffering from the “bug that’s going around.”
In other words, Desjardins is officially on injured reserve with a cold.
Defenseman Brent Burns and forward Scott Gomez were also scratched for the Nashville game, for what McLellan called a combination of a coach’s decision/health issues, although he did say that Burns, who missed the first 10 games with a lower body injury, “wasn't very good” on Monday in Columbus. Gomez was said to have the "bug that's going around."
Instead of isolating players that are said to have this bug, though, Gomez and Desjardins were around the team on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena. Gomez was at the rink in the morning freely associating with his teammates, and during the game, the supposedly stricken Desjardins joined the healthy Matt Pelech to watch from the press box, and let’s just say he didn't look deathly ill.
I know from my years of working and traveling on the team side that when players are sick and have the flu, the team does everything in its power to keep that player from spreading his germs. If a player got sick on the road, he was told to stay home or in his hotel room to rest, and when it was time to travel, he would be on the media bus to the airport and would sit with non-player personnel on the plane.
Hockey players are known to play through devastating injuries. It’s in their DNA, and it’s what separates the sport and its athletes from other sports. By suggesting some players aren’t able to play through what is, by all outward appearances, a minor cold at worst, Sharks management isn’t doing its players any favors.
Notes: Forward Matt Pelech was reassigned to Worcester on Wednesday after playing in one game against Columbus on Monday. ... The Sharks will practice at the United Center on Thursday afternoon. They were originally supposed to skate at the Blackhawks' practice facility, but some canceled Lady Gaga concerts opened up the arena.