SAN JOSE – One trend the Sharks would like to continue – or must continue if they want to make it to the playoffs – is scoring the first goal of games.
In their last six outings, San Jose has managed to take a 1-0 lead in each. Although they sagged in losses to Detroit on Feb. 26 and Ottawa on Feb. 28, and some avoidable mistakes cost them against Vancouver on March 7, the Sharks are lately showing signs of playing better hockey. That includes the appearance of being more emotionally engaged at puck drop.
“We have to have that desperation in our game to get points and get a playoff spot,” Patrick Marleau said. “I think that’s probably helped our starts.”
Todd McLellan said: “We have been prepared to come out and play in most of those games. If things have not gone well it seems to be happening a little bit later, but we’ve been prepared and ready to go and play with a lot of energy. … We’ll take the first goal any night we can get it.”
On paper, the Sharks’ first periods don’t look all that wretched. On the season, San Jose is getting outscored by just one goal, a combined 52-51 in the opening 20 minutes.
Digging a little deeper, though, reveals that 51 of those 52 first period goals-against have occurred after Nov. 1. According to Elias, only lowly Edmonton (54), Columbus (57) and Toronto (60) have allowed more first period goals over that span.
There may not be a more telling stat when it comes to the Sharks’ lack of early urgency in too many games this season, and perhaps even an absence of internal leadership, than allowing so many goals-against in the first period.
The Sharks have held a lead at the first intermission 22 times in 67 games, going 17-4-1. They are 23-8-3 when they score first, and 10-18-5 when they don’t.
“That first one is really important, we look at it that way,” Marleau said. “You always want to jump out to a quick lead.”
McLellan and Joe Pavelski both disagreed with the suggestion that the Sharks have been more emotionally prepared at the start of games lately, as compared to earlier this year.
“You’re always at a different emotional level throughout the season. It ebbs and flows, it’s 82 games,” McLellan said. “I think it’s fair to say we’ve had better results. But, to say that we’re more emotionally attached now, I don’t think that’s fair.”
Pavelski said: “Where we are in our position, we’ve got to bring it every night, and guys are ready to play. It’s good to see. We’ve got to continue that trend. That first one has to go in, it gives us that much better of a chance.”