|Head coach Todd McLellan and his Sharks have time to make a run towards the top of the West. (Getty Images)|
The San Jose Sharks recently wrapped up a nine-game road trip that saw them win only two games. The trip included losses to Carolina, Tampa Bay, Columbus and Minnesota, a game that saw them blow a lead late in the third period. The trip was pretty much an on-ice disaster in almost every way imaginable.
As a result, they've dropped all the way down to the seventh spot (as of Tuesday afternoon) in the Western Conference playoff race, and are just one point ahead of the first team that is currently on the outside of the playoff picture.
But because the Pacific Division is the Western Conference's answer to the Southeast Division, where mediocrity seems to be only acceptable level of play, they're also just two points away from being back in the No. 3 seed, so it's probably a bit too early to be pushing the panic button. Especially since they still have a game in hand on the currently first-place Coyotes, as well as three more head-to-head matchups remaining. So there is still plenty of time to get back into the driver’s seat and regain control of the division. And I expect that they will do just that.
The Sharks are still getting big-time production from their top players (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, etc), but have needed some additional depth on their bottom two lines and have had a major hole on their penalty kill for the season -- currently sitting in the 28th spot in the NHL, ahead of only Toronto and Columbus.
They may not be the biggest names to switch teams ahead of the trade deadline (then again, given the list of names that did change teams, maybe they are), but they're just the type of gritty reserves that general manager Doug Wilson's team needs down the stretch.
The Sharks are still a team that dominates their opponents territorially and have outscored the opposition by 18 goals this season, the fourth best mark in the Conference. Teams like that simply don't miss the postseason, and it shouldn't be a surprise if the Sharks follow up this recent slump with a run that takes them back to the top of the Western Conference.