Defensive play concerning as Sharks head into All-Star break


The Sharks played with fire defensively for most of the season's first 48 games, and got burnt in their final two before the All-Star break. 

Against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and the New York Rangers on Thursday, San Jose allowed 11 combined goals. The two-game homestand marked the first time the Sharks gave up five or more goals in consecutive games all season, while Thursday's loss was the 12th time they've let in at least five goals all season.

San Jose, unsurprisingly, is 1-8-3 in such games. 

Those 12 games are tied, with the lottery-bound Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers, for the sixth-most occurrences this season. No other playoff team has given up five-plus goals in a game more than San Jose. 

The Sharks aren't as bad as their worst nights would indicate, but the spread of those nights should worry them. After allowing five or more goals four times in their first 21 games, San Jose has done so eight times in the last 25.

Since the beginning of that stretch on December 1, only four teams have allowed more goals across all strengths. Per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, the Sharks have given up the fifth-most goals (2.81) and the sixth-most high-danger scoring chances (12.18), according to Natural Stat Trick.

On the penalty kill, San Jose has also given up the sixth-most high danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes (25.58) since the start of December. Over that span, the Sharks have only killed off 78.4 percent of their penalties, the 19th-best mark in the league.

It's been a stark downturn from their early-season defensive success. From the beginning of the season until the end of November, the Sharks gave up the fifth-fewest five-on-five goals against per 60 minutes (2.07), and killed penalties at an 88.3 percent clip. 

Yet even while Sharks weren't letting many pucks in, they were still allowing plenty of looks. They gave up the 11th-most high-danger chances per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (11.04), and eighth-highest per hour rate on the penalty kill (25.89). 

San Jose hasn't given up much in the way of shot quantity all season, as they allow the fifth-lowest rate of unblocked shot attempts (41.56) per 60 minutes in five-on-five situations and the third lowest rate of five-on-five shots (29.48). The problem is that far too many of those have come from dangerous areas of the ice. 

Their recent defensive play should alarm the Sharks heading into the All-Star break, perhaps even more than Joe Thornton's indefinite absence after right MCL surgery. They're only one point clear of not holding home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and just two ahead of missing the postseason entirely, with a five-game road trip right after the break. 

The small cushion the Sharks have may not be enough to get them into the playoffs if they continue to allow so many high-danger chances and goals. After all, you can't play with fire for long without expecting to be burnt. 

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