St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, left, of Slovakia, defends as ice sent up by Minnesota Wild’s Cal Clutterbuck’s skates fill the air during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 29, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.
On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.
Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.
At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.
Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.
“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”
This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.
The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.
The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.
Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.
The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.
However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.
Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.
But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.
Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.
The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”
Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.
The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.
Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.