Coming into this season the San Jose Sharks had won the Western Conference two years running and the Pacific Division three years in a row.
This year? They’ve plummeted to 12th in the Western Conference on the heels of a six-game losing streak and now have 19 regulation losses on the year, one less than they had all of 2009-10.
As a result, their string of six consecutive playoff berths is in serious jeopardy.
Why? Because the Sharks’ stars aren’t playing like stars. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and Joe Pavelski are supposed to be among the best players on the planet, but the statistics say that the Sharks have been worse when they’re on the ice this season.
The Sharks have only allowed four more goals than they’ve scored, yet Marleau is an ugly minus-19, Thornton is a minus-14, Boyle is a minus-13, and Pavelski is a minus-12.
Thornton hadn’t been a minus player since the 2000-01 season or averaged less than a point per game since 2003-04, but this year he’s posting just .88 points per game.
Marleau was a plus-21 last year and racked up 44 goals, but he’s on pace for just 31 this year.
As a whole San Jose’s offence is producing just 2.73 goals per game, a half goal less than last year. Meanwhile the defence is allowing 2.82 goals per game, up from 2.62 a season ago.
The Sharks have also gotten sub-par play out of their goaltenders. Antti Niemi, who back-stopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup victory last season, sports a 2.85 goals against average with a .907 save percentage and Antero Niittymaki has allowed 2.54 goals against per game and has a .901 save percentage.
Those two have been manning the nets for San Jose because the team decided to let Evgeni Nabokov go via free agency even though the Russian had won more than 40 games in three straight years.
Clearly that was a mistake, but no goalie will be able to save the Sharks until their leaders start performing.
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