Sharks Begin Make-or-break Month Ahead of Trade Deadline - NBC Bay Area

Sharks Begin Make-or-break Month Ahead of Trade Deadline



    Sharks Begin Make-or-break Month Ahead of Trade Deadline
    Marcus White
    Sharks begin make-or-break month ahead of trade deadline

    The Sharks begin a grueling stretch of their schedule in earnest in Pittsburgh against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Penguins on Tuesday. 

    Over the next 26 days, San Jose will play: 

    • 15 games
    • 12 games against teams within four points of the playoffs (as of Tuesday)
    • 10 road games 
    • Three back-to-backs
    • One game with more than a day of rest

    This would be a difficult proposition with Joe Thornton in the lineup, as the Sharks are just 14-8-9 in games with less than two days rest. That's good for a .452 winning percentage, all with the team's top center in the lineup. 

    Of course, they will be without Thornton for a while, as the 38-year-old has no timetable to return after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his right knee. 

    26 days is not an arbitrary designation either, as this portion of the Sharks' schedule concludes a day before the NHL's trade deadline (Monday, Feb. 26).  San Jose general manager Doug Wilson told reporters that the team's trade deadline approach would "probably not" change in light of Thornton's injury. 

    Their standings position by then, however, just might. The Sharks are second in the Pacific Division right now, a point ahead of the Calgary Flames with a game in hand on the Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks. 

    By the end of the deadline, San Jose will only have a game in hand on Anaheim. If the Sharks struggle in Thornton's absence, it's not difficult to envision them falling out of playoff position. 

    That's a real possibility, given how San Jose played entering the All-Star break. As analytics writer Sean Tierney charted, the Sharks were largely out-possessed by their opponents.

    As Tierney's shot shows, only the New York Islanders and lottery-bound Ottawa Senators had a worse shot attempt differential in their last five games before the All-Star break. The Islanders, like the Sharks, went 2-2-1 before the break, including wins in two of their last three, while the Senators headed into their time off on a five-game losing streak.

    Still, that's not exactly elite company. 

    Underlining how difficult the road ahead is for the Sharks, they begin their post-All-Star break, pre-trade deadline schedule against the defending champs. Naturally, they're playing some of their best hockey of the season, as Tierney charted. 

    Tuesday's game alone is not make-or-break, but marks the beginning of a 15-game stretch that is. The Sharks will endure said stretch without Joe Thornton for most, if not all of it, and weren't playing all that well prior.

    Taken together, the next month of San Jose's schedule is about as daunting as possible, with the potential to determine whether or not the Sharks make the postseason.