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No lead is safe
Sharks can't stay in the driver's seat
11/18/18 - By Paul Krill -

Saturday's delightful 4-0 win against the Saint Louis Blues was a bit uncharacteristic of this season:

* The Sharks captured the lead and held it.
* The Sharks had their first shutout of the year.

According to pre-game reporting on TV, the Sharks have had a lead in seven of the 10 games they've lost this season. And that doesn't count a game like last Tuesday's, where they had to come from behind to win after blowing a 3-0 lead against a Nashville team that had played an overtime game the night before.

The Sharks seem to be shirking their defensive responsibilities and, of course, goaltender Martin Jones is not currently on track to make anyone's Vezina Trophy candidates list.

Outside of last Sunday's game against Calgary, where he won the game for us, his play has been cringe-worthy at times. Breakaways on him can seem so automatic he might as well just step out of the way and let the puck in. And he has let in a bunch of other goals of the "He should have had that." variety.

I'm still a Martin Jones fan, but the slip in his quality of play more than cancels out the offensive firepower that Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson bring to the blue line this season.

We need the Sharks to tighten up defensively; reducing the amount of scoring opportunities against Jones (and Aaron Dell) will go a long way toward improving goaltender statistics.

A shutdown goaltender can carry a team and we don't currently have that. Following the first game this year, I wrote that perhaps GM Doug Wilson had taken the goaltending for granted, after Jones' poor play had lost that game for us. Six weeks' later, I still have to ask that same question.

….Penalty shots:

Aside from what's happening on the ice, what we're seeing in the stands is a bit disconcerting: throngs of empty seats, particularly for midweek games. Saturday night's game did not sell out, and even Thursday's game against Patrick Marleau and the Toronto Maple Leafs, an elite team from the Eastern Conference, was not a sellout, either. It looks like the Sharks have settled into a new reality: There will no longer be automatic sellouts and long sellout streaks.

Perhaps the runaway success of the Golden State Warriors, who've won three NBA championships in the past four seasons, has not helped. And the Sharks no longer have the South Bay all to themselves, with the "San Francisco" 49ers playing a few minutes' away in Santa Clara and the Earthquakes playing in a brand new soccer stadium also a few minutes away.

The Sharks have stepped up their marketing to account for this new reality. But I long for the days when the South Bay was so thrilled to have a major professional sports franchise, that the Shark Tank was virtually filled all the time. Those days are over.

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