WELCOME GUEST WRITER KAT PITRE! KAT CURRENTLY COVERS THE SAN JOSE SHARKS AT FEAR THE FIN AND HOSTS THE “THIS IS HOCKEY CULTURE” PODCAST.
With the playoff race in the Pacific Division narrowing, the San Jose Sharks are counting on every point to maintain their wild card slot in the West. With the recent string of frustrating losses (Jan 20, 3-2 Seattle Kraken and Jan 22, 7-1 Tampa Bay Lightning), the Sharks are feeling the brunt of their acute lack of offense, particularly where it concerns the Sharks’ depth and their second and third lines.
And the Sharks’ road trip now is anything but easy, beginning with the Washington Capitals tonight, then followed by the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers on Jan 29, the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan 30, and then the Tampa Bay Lightning, again, on Feb 1.
The Sharks’ blow-out loss to the Lightning was a test on how well the Sharks could measure up against the NHL’s top teams, but it wasn’t the moment of inspiration the team needed. “It’s a wake-up call for everybody that we need to step up,” said head coach Bob Boughner, ahead of the Sharks’ departure for Washington D.C.
Boughner called out his third line’s performance recently. That’s been Nick Bonino centering Andrew Cogliano and Matt Nieto, though tonight, with Rudolfs Balcers’s return to the top-six, it’s Bonino between Nieto and Gregor.
“Well, they haven’t been very good lately,” the bench boss said. “They got to get back to how they were playing. They’re really effective here a few weeks ago, and they’ve got to find that level again, because, you know, they’re so important to a team like ours.
“I like that third line’s identity on the road, especially because I’m not afraid to use them in any situation.”
Nick Bonino spoke candidly about his frustration with his own offensive game: “The offensive opportunities, the effective zone entries, and the puck management is (mostly) there, but the pucks in the back of the net aren’t, and it’s more than a matter of hot goaltending.
“I think there’s obviously a little bit more compete, but to me, it’s us working smarter. And, as a line, this is just one of the most frustrating years I’ve ever had. I don’t think there are less chances for us offensively, I can count right now eight chances that against the Rangers, for instance, that just don’t go in.”
When it comes to improving their line’s overall production, Bonino did have some perspective to share.
“Obviously, we’d like to provide more offense for the team, me especially, I’m usually between 30 and 40 points a year, and the puck just won’t go in and I’m working the same I’ve always worked. I’m doing everything I do preparation-wise, it just hasn’t gone in,” he said. “So I think as a line, we need to just continue doing the right things. We’re in the right spots. Hopefully, we can get rewarded for a little bit more of this work.”
The chances are encouraging, but a small mercy when offense as a whole is struggling. Bonino has five goals and two assists this season, with just a goal and two assists coming in his last 15 appearances.
“We don’t play in the NHL for moral victories. I think it’s frustrating. You know, it’s frustrating to have seven points when you could have 20.”
San Jose Sharks (21-19-2)
Despite the Sharks’ likely to be juggling their lines, they shouldn’t stray too far from the lineup they utilized last game, although we’ll see how the Sharks line up ahead of puck drop. Here’s the projected lineup for tonight’s early evening game.
#SJSharks lines…don't think Merkley is playing tonight:
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 26, 2022
Morning shots 📸 feat. the forwards pic.twitter.com/IxEUh7H4EE
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 6, 2022
Washington Capitals (23-11-9)
The Washington Capitals were vying for the top position in the Metropolitan Division, although their last five games have seen the team win just two, and drop three. The Capitals are searching for a comeback, and the Sharks could be easy pickings.
Per the Daily Faceoff, this is how the Capitals’ lines may stack up against the Sharks.
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Wilson
Sheary – Backstrom – Sprong
Protas – Eller – Hathaway
Hagelin – Dowd – Leason
Fehervary – Carlson
Orlov – Schultz
Kempny – Van Reimsdyk
Where to watch
Puck drop between the Washington Capitals and San Jose Sharks is at 4:00 PM PT at the Capital One Arena. Watch it live on ESPN+, NBC Sports Washington, and NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.
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