The NHL is set up with a strong night of action on January 4. Twelve games will be up on the board throughout the day on Saturday. One of these matchups will be between the San Jose Sharks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. These two teams have struggled early in the season, but still have time to bounce back. This game will drop the puck at around 1:00 PM Eastern time on Saturday afternoon.
San Jose has started off the season with a record of 18-21-3 throughout this season, which has them in sixth place of the Pacific Division. The Sharks have a two point lead on the Anaheim Ducks, who are in last place of the division. San Jose is eight points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Sharks will look to build up a winning streak with a victory on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Jackets have posted a record of 19-14-8 so far this season, which has helped them earn the sixth seed in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus is three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who are in the final wild card spot. The Blue Jackets have won two games in a row and earned points in their last twelve games.
The Sharks and the Blue Jackets have both struggled early in the season, but still have a chance to earn a playoff spot before the end of the season. San Jose has been inconsistent throughout this season, while Columbus has picked up their play a lot as of late. The Sharks will look to end this point streak with a big win on Saturday afternoon.
Columbus and San Jose met up twice throughout last season’s regular season. San Jose hosted the first game of the season series. Kevin Labanc scored the first goal of the game to give the Sharks an early lead, but Columbus came fighting back. Anthony Duclair had a goal and an assist, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 44 of the 45 shots he faced in a 4-1 win.
The Blue Jackets hosted the second game of the regular season series later in the season. Cam Atkinson and Matt Duchene each had a goal and an assist for Columbus. Pierre-Luc Dubois and Boone Jenner both had a goal as well for the Blue Jackets. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all 26 shots he faced in this one as Columbus pulled away with a 4-0 win.
The Blue Jackets have won three games in a row against San Jose coming into this matchup. Both the Blue Jackets and the Sharks finished in postseason spots last season, but have not found the same success this season. While Columbus is higher up in the standings, if the Sharks can find their groove, they could be a dangerous team in the Western Conference.
San Jose’s power play has not been able to get going yet this season. The Sharks have capitalized on around 18 of their 121 power play attempts, which is a 14.9 percent success rate. San Jose’s penalty kill has been doing extremely well though. The Sharks have held their opponents to 17 goals on 142 chances, which is an 88 percent penalty kill.
The Blue Jackets have not done great on the power play either this season. Columbus has scored on 22 of their 129 power play attempts, which is a 17.1 percent power play. The Blue Jackets penalty kill has been sitting around the league average. Columbus has allowed opponents to score 23 goals on 119 opportunities, which is an 80.7 percent kill rate.
Neither of these teams have gotten going on the power play yet this season. The Sharks penalty kill has been doing much better throughout this season. I believe that this will lead to San Jose having a better chance at getting going on the power play. If the Sharks can capitalize on the power play in this one, I think it could give them the edge to pull off the win.
I believe that Aaron Dell will get the nod in the crease for the Sharks on Saturday afternoon. Dell has started out this season with a record of 5-6-2 through 13 starts. He has posted a save percentage of .904 through those starts. Dell’s last start was against the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he stopped 36 of the 38 shots against him in a nice win.
Elvis Merzlikins will likely get the start in net for Columbus in this matchup. Merzlikins has gone 2-4-3 through his games played this season. He has put up a .905 save percentage and a GAA of 2.92. Merzlikins’ last start came against the Boston Bruins. He turned away 25 of the 26 shots against him in a win for the Blue Jackets.
These two goalies have put up similar numbers throughout this season. Neither goalie has put up a winning record, but both goalies have solid stats on the season. Merzlikins has had two really strong starts in a row, while Dell has had three straight starts with a save percentage above .900. If either goalie can get in a good rhythm early, I believe it will help lead to a win for his respective team.
The Sharks and the Blue Jackets are both sitting outside of playoff spots to this point in the season. Columbus has had a great point streak to help them get back in that race, but I believe San Jose has a good chance to end that streak with a win on Saturday. The Sharks have the advantage on special teams in my opinion and if Dell can keep up his recent strong play, it could be enough for San Jose to pull off the upset on the road.
BetOnline has Columbus listed as a -147 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Blue Jackets will win this game round 59.5 percent of the time. I believe that this game should be closer to even. Columbus is on a long point streak, but all streaks come to an end. Even though San Jose has been a bit of a disappointment this season, I like their chances to pull off the upset in this one.