The San Jose Sharks continue their season-opening homestand as the Carolina Hurricanes come to town for their one visit to the Tank this season. The Sharks are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche that saw Mackenzie Blackwood go full Super Saiyan as he stopped 51 of 52 shots and only gave up one during the shootout. The Canes lost 6-3 on Sunday vs the Anaheim Ducks. Frank Vatrano scored a hat trick for the Ducks, and they looked absolutely glorious while doing it. Here are three things to watch on Tuesday night in San Jose.
Shot Attempt Differential
It’s early in the season, but the Sharks are getting caved in. At 5 on 5, they have given up 133 shot attempts while producing 76 of their own. That’s an average of 66.5 to 38. A team Corsi For % of 38.10. In all situations, it gets worse! The Sharks currently sit at 37.68 CF% after two games, the worst in the NHL. In comes the Corsi Kings, the Carolina Hurricanes, who led the league in shot attempts last season and are currently leading the league this season at 5 on 5.
The Sharks got lucky to get a point with Blackwood entering another realm of goaltending on Saturday night, but it’s a tough way to live where you spend the majority of the night in your own zone defending. The Sharks must find some sustained offense against the Canes. The defensive pairing of Brady Skjei-Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin-Brent Burns rank 17th and 21st, respectively, among defensive pairings in CF%. The Sharks must attack the Dmitry Orlov-Tony DeAngelo pairing that is 52 of 99 in CF%. Making DeAngelo have to defend for long stretches of period could result in an uptick of offense that the Sharks desperately need.
Can Power Play Get On Track?
The Sharks power play has been an adventure this short season. They have officially registered six shots and given up five in their six power-play opportunities. This isn’t to say that it’s been bad. They have xGF of 1.99 and have registered 13 scoring chances. Both are middle of the pack in the NHL. With Mikael Granlund on IR, Mike Hoffman has taken the job on the point. Head Coach David Quinn looks to add some young players to the top unit, William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau, to help create more opportunities. Bordeleau and Eklund have plenty of chemistry from their time on the top power play of the San Jose Barracuda, where they each had nine power-play goals last season.
The Hurricanes had the second-best penalty kill last season and 11 short-handed goals. This could be a major opportunity for the Hurricanes to pounce on a power play that has had issues getting itself established. If the Canes can pressure Mike Hoffman on the point, they could be off to the races. Could Quinn look to run his power play from behind the net to try and relieve the pressure off the point?
Mackenzie Blackwood made quite the debut for the Sharks on Saturday night. What does he do for an encore? With the Hurricanes’ ability to shoot early and often, it could repeat what we saw on Saturday. Can Blackwood repeat that type of performance? Blackwood will have to be a stone wall again for the Sharks to have any chance of winning this game, especially after the Canes’ bad performance on Sunday.
In 17 career games that Blackwood saw at least 40 shots on goal, he has a .938 SV%. In the 15 games afterward (one was the 40-shot games was the last game of the season), he has posted a .920 SV% with two shutouts. He was also pulled once after giving up four goals on 11 shots. If asked to stand tall again, Blackwood has shown that he can be that guy for a team. The risk with Blackwood is always injury, and asking him to do this night in and night out will lead to injury. It would be smart of the Sharks to try and lighten the workload on Blackwood so he doesn’t have to be Superman every night for this team to have a chance.
BOLD PREDICTION: Sharks score a power play goal but give up a short-handed goal as they lose 3-2.