Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Sharks’ winless streak: Breaking down San Jose’s chances to get first victory amid historically bad start

Do you know the way to San Jose? Good, because I’m going to head in the opposite direction. The Sharks are playing some disgusting hockey right now, and they are six losses away from setting the record for the longest winless streak to start a season.

The Sharks are now 10 games into the 2023-24 campaign, and they have exactly one point in the standings. Their 0-9-1 record is far and away the worst in the NHL, and they just got demolished by the Vancouver Canucks in a 10-1 rout on Thursday. Hey, that’s a decent day at the offense for an NFL defense!

I know what you’re thinking. “It can’t possibly be as bad as it looks.” Think again. San Jose has been miserable at five-on-five, and the team ranks at or near the bottom of the league in every statistical category.

League Rank

Goals

10

32nd

Goals Against

45

32nd

Goal Differential

-35

32nd

5-on-5 xG Share

42.3%

30th

As a result of that mess, the Sharks are now just six losses away from passing the 1943-44 New York Rangers for the longest winless streak to start a season. To say San Jose needs a win would be an understatement. Not only would it triple the team’s point total, but it would also give the fans something to cheer about for the first time since the players were introduced on opening night.

So, let’s take a look at the Sharks’ upcoming schedule and try to find a win in there somewhere. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt their chances of the No. 1 overall pick and Macklin Celebrini. San Jose might have the pole position in the NHL Draft Lottery all but locked up by Thanksgiving.

Here are the most likely spots for the Sharks to pick up their first win of the 2023-24 season.

Pittsburgh Penguins | Home | Saturday, Nov. 4

Ignore the rosters. Ignore the underlying five-on-five numbers. Those obviously tilt heavily in the Penguins’ favor, but that doesn’t really matter. Dating back to last season, Pittsburgh has shown a penchant for stepping on rakes, and this might break the Guinness World Record for the largest rake in existence.

The Penguins have played well to start the season, but that hasn’t mattered on the scoreboard yet. They already have losses to the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Ottawa Senators. All of those teams are in the bottom half of the league standings. Pittsburgh has been unlucky, snake-bitten, or cursed to start this season. However, you’d like to describe it, the early-season vibes have been off for the Pens and the Sharks might be able to take advantage of that.

Edmonton Oilers | Home | Thursday, Nov. 9

You could make the same vibes-based argument for this game that you could with the Penguins. However, this one goes a little bit deeper. If I’m looking for a matchup that shakes out relatively well for the Sharks — and “relatively” is the key word — it would be their power play against the Oilers’ penalty kill.

Thus far, San Jose has converted on 14.8% of its power play opportunities, which ranks 21st in the league. That is far from great, but it’s outside the bottom 10, which is where the team sits in most other categories. Edmonton’s penalty kill ranks 28th with a success rate of just 71.4%. Add in the fact that Oilers netminders Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell are off to a terrible start, and the Sharks might be able to spring the upset by being opportunistic on offense.

Anaheim Ducks | Road | Sunday, Nov. 12

This would be the last chance the Sharks have to avoid setting the record for most consecutive games without a win to start the season. I’m aware that the Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now with five straight wins, but this could still be a decent opportunity for San Jose to score a win in a rivalry game.

As good as the Ducks have been, their five-on-five offense hasn’t set the world on fire. They are generating 2.35 xGF/60, which ranks 25th, per Natural Stat Trick. That is just one spot above the Sharks in the same category. On top of that, Anaheim’s core is made up of very skilled but very young players. Young players are prone to inconsistency, and they might also be prone to letting their foot off the accelerator against an inferior but frustrated opponent. Besides, the Ducks have really outplayed their expected goal numbers, especially on defense, which means a return to Earth might be on the horizon.

St. Louis Blues | Home | Thursday, Nov. 16

When looking at the Sharks’ schedule this month, the matchup against the Blues jumps out as the best chance for them to come away with a win. While St. Louis has a better record, its underlying process has been almost as bad as San Jose’s.

The Sharks have controlled just 42.3% of the expected goals at five-on-five. Only two teams have been worse. They are the Chicago Blackhawks and … the Blues. Granted, those two teams have some real difference-makers at the top of the lineup, but San Jose might be able to control the pace against St. Louis at even strength. The Blues’ offense has been especially poor, which means the Sharks might not have to score 11 goals to win.

Washington Capitals | Home | Monday, Nov. 27

The Sharks were agonizingly close to beating the Capitals on Oct. 29. They took a 1-0 lead into the third period, but that evaporated rather quickly. Washington scored three goals in the final frame to win, but it’s time for San Jose to get revenge in a few weeks.

Outside of the revenge factor, the Capitals have been pretty underwhelming to start this season. The veteran core is starting to look its age, and Nicklas Backstrom has stepped away from the team due to the toll injuries have taken on his body in recent years. The Caps rank 22nd in goals scored and boast a minus-10 goal differential. This should be another relatively even matchup for the Sharks. Then again, Alex Ovechkin could view this as a prime opportunity to make up ground on Wayne Gretzky in his chase for the all-time goals record.

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