November 28, 2014 By Paul Gackle

Do The Sharks Have Enough Secondary Scoring?

SAN JOSE — The marquee names are finding the back of the net, but the San Jose Sharks will need help from the supporting cast to climb up the Pacific Division standings.

In the Sharks 10 regulation losses, Joe Pavelski has scored five goals, Logan Couture has netted four and Joe Thornton has picked up two. Brent Burns, the team’s second-leading scorer with 19 points, has put the puck in the net twice in those games. Beyond that, the Sharks have just two goals in the games they’ve lost in regulation — a tally from Adam Burish against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 23 and a goal from James Sheppard against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov.6– raising questions about whether the team has enough secondary scoring to be a playoff team again this year.

“It is a little bit alarming that you only have four guys that have basically produced in those games as far as goals go,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “That paints a picture that we need everybody contributing, we can’t rely on four or five guys — that’s a concern.”

Outside of the Big Five (throw Burns in there with Thornton, Pavelski, Couture and Patrick Marleau), the Sharks leading goal scorer is Tommy Wingels (six) and he’s only lit the lamp once in his last 13 games.

James Sheppard scored goals in three straight games on Nov.1, Nov. 6 and Nov.8, but he’s gone nine games without putting the puck across the line. Tomas Hertl and Tyler Kennedy both have one goal in their last 11 games and Matt Nieto hasn’t found the net since the Sharks season opener against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 8.

“We haven’t contributed like we would have hoped,” Barlcay Goodrow said, referring to the Sharks bottom six. “We’re doing a lot of good things, we can’t seem to find the back of the net right now. If we stick with it — and not cheat on the offensive side of things — and keep playing our game, they’ll go in sooner rather than later.”

Youth and inexperience are partially responsible for the lack of secondary scoring right now. Hertl and Nieto are both top six players with less than 90 games of NHL experience and Goodrow is a rookie with only 11 games under his belt. Goodrow scored three goals during the preseason, but he’s yet to record his first regular season tally.

“There’s some young guys that are still finding their way in the league. I look at the Nieto’s and the Hertl’s and, sometimes, it’s tough being a second-year player. People know who you are and expectations go up, but they haven’t even played complete seasons in the league,” McLellan said. “The youth that’s in there is figuring out that this isn’t exhibition season anymore. You’re playing against elite teams and elite goaltenders and the goals you scored [in the preseason] don’t come as easy as in the regular season, so that’s an experience they have to go through.”

When the Sharks do get secondary scoring, they tend to pick up points. In nine of the Sharks 10 wins, someone outside of the Big Five has scored a goal and the same in true in three of the team’s four overtime losses.

McLellan said Andrew Desjardins’ goal in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Nov.22  helped the Sharks earn a much-needed point.

“We don’t salvage a point unless those guys get involved and get active,” he said.

But Wingels dismissed the suggestion that secondary scoring, or lack thereof, is contributing to the team’s struggles right now.

“I don’t think secondary scoring is the reason why we’re not winning right now. It’s a team thing,” he said. “As a group, we’re going to have to find a way to win games.”

Despite the goose eggs in the goal column, the Sharks third and fourth lines are putting together strong puck-possession shifts right now and Kennedy believes it’s only a matter of time before the dam breaks.

“We’re creating a ton right now, we’ve just got to stay at it,” he said.

The key, according to Kennedy, is scoring ugly.

“When you’re in a slump, you’ve kind of got to go to the net and bang in an [ugly] one or a bad one to get your confidence going — that’s going to come,” he said.

McLellan said his team needs to create more second-chance opportunities. While the Sharks have outshot opponents 135-86 in their last four games, they aren’t sustaining pressure in the attack zone and getting enough grade-A opportunities off rebounds.

“A lot of times, we’re one and out right now,” he said.

At some point, Raffi Torres will return to the roster, which could give the bottom lines a jolt, and general manager Doug Wilson could make a move if the scoring drought continues. But at this point, McLellan believes the Sharks have the secondary scoring to be successful.

“It should be in the locker room,” he said.