It was January 31, and the Sharks had just won their seventh game in a row in a shootout over Edmonton, opening up a seven-point lead on the entire Pacific Division.
We all know what has happened after that. The Sharks have gone just 1-6-3 since then, and are on the verge of dropping out of a playoff spot, more than one-third of the way through the regular season. Depending on Monday night’s games, the Sharks could be out of the top eight by the time they take the ice at home on Tuesday against Colorado.
Conversely, the Anaheim Ducks are surging. At 13-2-1, the Ducks, who missed out on the postseason last year, are one of the biggest pleasant surprises in the NHL. Anaheim won its sixth straight game on Sunday night, 4-3 over Colorado in overtime, and has an eight-point lead with a game in hand on the Sharks.
Any hope the Sharks had of recapturing the Pacific Division crown is quickly fading.
So, how are the Ducks doing it?
Anaheim doesn't have a single player in the Top 20 in scoring, but is third in the league in goals-per game (3.31). It is finding goals and offense from just about everyone on the roster, which is the Sharks’ single biggest weakness. Ryan Getzlaf’s six goals and 17 points lead the team, but the Ducks have nine other players that have recorded at least four goals. Ten players on the Ducks have at least eight points.
That's a complete opposite from San Jose, which has 39 goals in 17 games, or 2.29 per game. Patrick Marleau has 12 of those, accounting for 30.8 of San Jose’s goal output. Add in Joe Pavelski (6g), Logan Couture (6g) and Joe Thornton (4g), and the Sharks’ have relied on just four players for nearly three quarters of their goals (71.8 percent).
Among forwards, only Marty Havlat (3g), Tim Kennedy (2g) Tommy Wingels (1g) and Michal Handzus (1g) have put the puck in the net other then the team’s big four.
Forwards Ryane Clowe, Scott Gomez, Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish, TJ Galiardi and James Sheppard have failed to score a single goal in a combined 78 games.
Todd McLellan has been looking for the right line combinations for the past few weeks as the Sharks have failed to score two goals in regulation in 11 of their last 12 games (including seven straight), but nothing has helped. It may be that the Sharks simply don't have the talent up front to compete with a team like Anaheim.
Stalock equals Greiss’ mark
Worcester goaltender Alex Stalock tied the AHL club’s mark for franchise wins by a goaltender, with a 5-1 victory over Springfield on Sunday night.
Stalock made 37 saves to get his 74th win and equal the mark by current Sharks backup Thomas Greiss. The 25-year-old is 15-11-3 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 30 games with the Sharks' AHL affiliate.
Matt Pelech, who was recalled a couple times on San Jose’s recent road trip, scored his first goal in the win.