The New York Islanders look to continue their frustrating 10-game winless streak and historic 10-game losing streak in San Jose tonight, playing the second of a California back-to-back against a tough Sharks team that outshoots everyone.
Much has been made of the Sharks' great start this season, which surprised even those who still view them as one of the major Western powers. They began the season unleashing a Germanic barrage of shots at the opposition, and that remains true today:
- At 5-on-5 with the score close, they outshoot teams by seven shots per 60 minutes, which ranks second.
- At all even strength situations (so, even when sitting on a comfortable lead), they still outshoot teams by 5.9 per 60, also second in the league.
That does not bode well for Kevin Poulin, whose turn it is to defend the Islanders net for the nightly three or more goals against.
The Sharks outshooting is by design of course, and they say it's more than "puck possession": It's about rolling four lines with speed that keeps pushing and pushing the play. Interestingly, that means a change in approach for team leader Joe Thornton, a perennial points producer who is also by nature more of a gain-the-zone-and-hold creative type, rather than a go-go-go-to-the-net type.
Here is Sharks coach Todd McClellan describing it to The Hockey News earlier this year, referencing carrying this approach to all four lines:
"If we were going quick in the past, it kind of fell off as we went down a line or two, so there were hills and valleys. In the game right now, all the lines play a quick game."
On Thornton, McClellan said:
"Jumbo's part of the fast game now and we're proud of him for doing it. That shows his ability to adapt. He still has the green light to find people and look late. We're not taking that from him. But often it's not the puck carrier who slows things down, it's everbody else. He has the puck a lot, so people have to keep moving."
Oh, and here's McClellan showing even a team with 43 points in mid-December can be ticked off with his team:
"The power play was awful," McLellan said. "I don't know if, in six years that I've been as disappointed with the power play as I am right now, and it's not even about me. I'm sure they're disappointed their power play. They are an elite group that has come out and been a threat for a long time. I'd like to see two or three guys take charge of it and let's get going,
Arthur Staple of Newsday has the expected lines tonight, which reflect Peter Regin hopping back on the scapewagon and Eric Boulton entering:
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight in this thread.
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