NASHVILLE – Alex Stalock is looking for answers.
The Sharks’ backup goalie suffered his third straight defeat on Tuesday in Nashville, allowing five goals on 37 Predators shots. The 27-year-old has allowed 13 goals in three straight losses to Nashville, Calgary and New Jersey.
For the season, Stalock is 5-7-1 with a 2.85 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. Those numbers are a far cry from last season, his first full year in the NHL, when he was 12-5-2 with a 1.87 GAA and .932 SP.
Following the loss to Nashville, he was asked about why the dramatic drop off has occurred.
“I don’t know,” Stalock said. “We watch video. I don’t know. Different chances maybe? I don’t know. It’s something we look at every day.
“I’d love to have an answer for it and have numbers like I did last year every single year. But, you see guys that it’s a tough league. It’s fast. It’s a learning experience, and you go from there.”
Stalock hasn’t gotten much help from his defense, which continues to be ragged. But he hasn’t been able to come up with the big save, either, and has let in goals this season that he was routinely stopping last year.
Against the Predators, it was two goals in less than a minute early in the second period that essentially allowed Nashville to cruise to a 5-1 win.
Todd McLellan was asked if Stalock was down on himself after those two.
“I hope not, because we’re all in it together. We’re not getting down on him and he shouldn’t be getting down on himself,” McLellan said. “It’s a hard league to play in and you have to be ready all the time. Would he like to have one or two of them back? Maybe, yeah, but he didn’t give up anything in the third.”
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Stalock’s numbers are even more in focus as Antti Niemi’s name continues to surface in trade talk.
The Sharks’ starting goaltender, whose numbers are also down, is reportedly on the table leading up to the March 2 deadline. Niemi is a pending unrestricted free agent whose time in San Jose is likely winding down, and it’s understandable that Doug Wilson would prefer to try and get something in return for Niemi rather than see him walk for nothing this summer.
Were the Sharks to move Niemi, though, it would seem to be throwing in the towel on the 2014-15 season. Although Sharks management admitted that this season would be a step backwards, the internal expectation is still to make it to the postseason. Considering Stalock hasn’t been able to duplicate his impressive first year, the playoffs would be even more of a long shot than they already are now (the math says it’s down to 36.2 percent).
Another option could be Troy Grosenick, but the Worcester starting goalie has not played in more than a month due to an undisclosed injury and had a concussion earlier in the year. While he impressed in Carolina in his NHL debut with a 45-save shutout on Nov. 16, it’s far too early to consider Grosenick a future starter in San Jose.
The Sharks got a first-hand look at how important goaltending is on Tuesday in Nashville with Pekka Rinne’s display. Now, that position may be their biggest organizational question mark.