Sharks must address poor starts, particularly against Golden Knights


Scoring first in an NHL game does not guarantee victory by any means. But in general, the most successful teams are the ones in the lead most often.

Scoring first tends to help with that last part. It certainly can't hurt.

When the Sharks are rolling, they're starting well, putting themselves in a position where they're not chasing the puck -- and the score -- shortly after the opening faceoff.

When they're struggling, however, the opposite seems to be the case.

Such was readily apparent throughout the final 18 games of San Jose's regular-season schedule.

During the Sharks' six-game winning streak from March 1-12 -- which included victories over three other playoff teams -- San Jose scored the first goal five times. Additionally, in none of those six games did the Sharks allow their opponent to score within the first five minutes of the contest.

Then it all fell apart.

Over the next 12 games, which included a seven-game losing streak on the immediate heels of that winning streak, San Jose went 3-9. They scored the first goal only three times within that 12-game span, and allowed the opposition to score within the first five minutes of the game a whopping eight times.

Scoring the first goal in just 25.0 percent of games is not going to cut it. Allowing the opposition to jump out to a very early lead in two-thirds of games is just asking for trouble.

Now, consider who the Sharks will face in the first round of the playoffs: the Vegas Golden Knights.

[RELATED: Sharks feeling confident heading into series vs. Vegas]

Vegas has dominated the matchup with San Jose in their brief existence in the NHL, and by similar methods that have caused the Sharks so many problems as of late.

In the 14 games all-time between the two Pacific division rivals, Vegas holds a 9-5 record, including a second-round elimination of the Sharks in six games a year ago. In those 14 games, the Golden Knights have scored the first goal 10 times.

Additionally, in those 14 games, the Sharks have allowed the Golden Knights to score within the first five minutes on eight separate occasions, including one in which Vegas scored multiple times.

So, in their brief history with the Knights, the Sharks have trailed first over 70.0 percent of the time. And in 70.0 percent of those instances, San Jose has trailed by at least one goal within the first five minutes.

In fact, this season, the Sharks have not lasted four minutes into a game against Vegas without allowing a goal. They still managed to split the four-game season series with the Knights despite those poor starts, but nonetheless, it's not an ideal position to be putting themselves in.

There are several areas of San Jose's game that need to be cleaned up in order to advance past Vegas. Goaltending is deservedly the biggest concern, with the health of several key contributors -- namely Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier -- not far behind.

But how the Sharks start games, particularly against the Knights, has to be improved. 

Failure to do so would be a very treacherous roll of the dice.

Contact Us