After the Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games last spring, many hockey fans expected the Sharks to make some tweaks and come back as the perennial force that they have been in the Pacific Division for years. Former Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson returned, and the heart and soul of the locker room, Joe Thornton, returned for one more season. After time spent with the Toronto Maple Leafs, long time shark Patrick Marleau returned as well. The team lost captain Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars, but the scoring punch of Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl should keep that offense rolling.
Oh, how wrong people were.
Couture and Hertl have both had solid starts to begin the season, with 32 points and 28 points respectively. Joining Hertl with 14 goals is Evander Kane, who is on track for one of his better offensive seasons. Karlsson is still a reliable offensive defenseman, with 23 assists.
Joe Thornton hasn’t scored a goal yet, though. The goaltending tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has been sub-par; Dell has better numbers than the team’s usual starter, with a 4-5-1 record, a 3.17 GAA, and a .895 save percentage. Jones is having a decidedly sub-par season so far, with a 12-13-1 record, a 3.30 GAA, and a .888 save percentage.
Despite moments of looking like a cohesive team, the Sharks fired coach Peter DeBoer on December 11th and replaced him with Bob Boughner. The firing included three assistant coaches as well. The bleeding hasn’t stopped. While the Blues are riding a four game winning streak after having swept their recent homestand, the Sharks are 3-6-1 in their last ten games and one game over .500 at home.
There was a time that a California road trip could be a disaster for the Blues. Now, the Sharks, Kings, and Ducks are the Pacific’s also-rans. There’s little reason that the Blues couldn’t extend their win streak tonight.
Jordan Binnington’s still resting up, and with Jake Allen’s play this year improving markedly, Allen may well be in net tonight. Another possible line-up addition could be Ivan Barbashev. Barbashev has missed the last two games but was just listed as day today; head coach Craig Berube said that he is feeling well enough to be in tonight. Tyler Bozak may also feel up to the challenge if he’s over his illness.