Life support

San Jose Sharks losing streak puts NHL playoff dream on life support

SAN JOSE — Five weeks ago, the Sharks were coming off their most memorable game of the season. Timo Meier had just set a team record with a five-goal game, leading the Sharks to a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

The Sharks were four points behind first in the Pacific Division on Jan. 19 and ninth in the Western Conference in point percentage.

Since then, the roof has collapsed.

The Sharks lost to the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 20 for the second time this season, had Erik Karlsson undergo surgery, went 1-1-2 on a tough four-game road trip against Eastern Conference teams and finished their recently completed homestand with a 0-2-1 record.

As they boarded a flight to Southern California on Monday afternoon, a month after Meier’s historic game, the Sharks were on a six-game skid. They were 13th in the Western Conference in points percentage and 10 points from a playoff spot.

It was quick.

The Sharks (22-22-5) have 33 games left to play, starting with Tuesday’s game in Anaheim against the Ducks, but it already feels like it would be too much of a climb to qualify for the playoffs. .

“There’s a lot of season left, but not a ton,” Sharks center Nick Bonino said after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. “Lose those games and you run out of time.”

In a way, there is a striking similarity between what is happening this season and what happened just after the halfway point last season.

On April 3, 2021, the Sharks were 17-16-4 and one point away from a playoff spot in the Western Division with 19 games in a 56-game season remaining. They then lost nine of their next 10 games, including eight in a row, only to fall hopelessly out of contention.

During the eight-game skid, the Sharks scored just 14 goals, managing more than two goals in a game just once. They lost winnable games to Los Angeles and Anaheim and continued to struggle against playoff-bound teams like Minnesota and Vegas.

This season, in the last eight games with Karlsson unavailable, the Sharks have scored 17 goals, 11 of them at even strength. Winning opportunities against teams like Edmonton and Vancouver, which are also battling for a playoff berth, have fallen by the wayside.

“Games get harder to win in the second half and the teams are all fighting for their lives,” Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. “It’s the little things. If you (have) a breakdown at the start of the game, you have to stay in the game, so there’s a bit of frustration.

“(Karlsson) being out obviously hurts us, but we have to fight. We have a game in Anaheim and we have to find a way to try to get two points out of it and stay in the fight.

Following Tuesday’s game, the Sharks have home games with the New York Islanders, Seattle and Boston Bruins.

If the Sharks haven’t got things back on track by the end of the month, the front office will obviously have to consider selling before the March 21 trade deadline, and perhaps start retooling for the season. next and beyond.

That’s what happened in 2021, as the Sharks, one game after ending their losing skid, launched a youth movement for the final three weeks of the season. The results were predictable, as the Sharks have won just two of their last eight games, helping them earn the seventh overall pick in last year’s NHL Draft.

The Sharks aren’t there yet, but they don’t have many games left to try to avoid a carbon copy of last season.

“We’ve added veterans who know how to get out of things like this,” Sharks winger Matt Nieto said. “The energy in the room is very different from last year. We still have a lot of confidence in this room at the moment. (Tuesday) is a great opportunity to get out of this slump.

SHARKS ASK DZINGEL: The Sharks claimed forward Ryan Dzingel off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday and also placed struggling forward Lane Pederson on waivers.

Dzingel, 29, and defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin were traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Maple Leafs on Saturday for forward Nick Ritchie and a conditional draft pick. Toronto then placed Dzingel on waivers on Sunday.

Dzingel, in his ninth professional season, has 86 goals and 187 points in 398 career NHL games. He has seven points in 26 games with the Coyotes this season. He is expected to join the Sharks in Anaheim on Tuesday.

Pederson, 24, has two points in 26 games with the Sharks this season, mostly as a fourth-line forward. If he clears waivers, he’ll be assigned to the AHL Barracuda.

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