The San Jose Sharks needed a game to stop the bleeding. They got exactly that on Saturday night in a 6-1 dismantling of the Philadelphia Flyers.
And no player on the roster needed a big game more than forward Timo Meier. They ended up getting that, too.
Meier recorded his first career hat trick in the win, snapping a four-game scoring drought.
Even more than the lack of scoring, Meier’s game had badly fallen off in recent weeks. Because of that, he found himself riding the bench for extended periods of time over the past two games. With the Sharks entering Saturday on a four-game losing streak, and coming off of a game where they blew a 2-0 third period lead, an infuriated Bob Boughner threatened several lineup changes for Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.
Meier was assumed to be at the top of the list due to his lack of production and overall play. But Boughner stuck with the same lineup on Saturday (minus a swap of starting goalies) and was rewarded with one of the Sharks’ best overall performances of the season. That included Meier, who now has 14 goals in 40 games this season and is back on a near 30-goal pace for the season.
The 23-year-old signed a four-year, $24 million contract this past summer after scoring 30 goals a year ago.
At this point every game is huge for the Sharks.
They put themselves in a brutal hole in the Western Conference and it is going to take a near miracle to get out of it. But they had to start somewhere, and this game was as good of a time as any. Assuming it takes 92 points to make the playoffs in the Western Conference, that means the Sharks still need to collect 55 points in their remaining 42 games.
That leaves them with little margin for error the rest of the way.
The Sharks now begin a five-game road trip in Detroit on Tuesday. After that, the competition increases significantly in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Washington, and St. Louis. Three of those teams (Washington, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh) are among the top-five in the league in points percentage. With them still sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race it is not a stretch to say this road trip could determine whether or not they get back into contention.