The San Jose Sharks are not going to contend for the Stanley Cup. They are not going to make the playoffs and are not going to finish with a winning record.
Now that we’ve talked about the things the Sharks aren’t, let’s talk about what they might be. The Sharks might finish with the worst post-lockout record for an NHL season.
Remember, the lockout put an end to ties and implemented the shootout to make sure one team ended the night with two points.
We won’t include other shortened seasons since 2004-2005 here. The current record for most losses was the 2016-2017 Colorado Avalanche with 56 losses. The San Jose Sharks enter play on Wednesday with the sixth-lowest winning percentage in NHL history.
The record for the lowest amount of wins in a post-2004-2005 season (not including the shortened seasons that have happened for a variety of reasons since then) is the 2013-2014 Buffalo Sabres who finished with 21.
This was the year before, the “build-up” to the Sabres tanking for the chance at Connor McDavid. As of Wednesday, San Jose would need 20 wins over their final 66 games to avoid that same fate.
There might be one guy who can save San Jose from such a depressing fate. He might not lead them to a championship but can at least lead them to a bit of respectability by avoiding the “worst ever” moniker in NHL history books. That man is goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood.
The San Jose Sharks have seen Mackenzie Blackwood play well so far this year
Once looked at as the future in the New Jersey Devils net, Blackwood was thrust into the crease and overworked when the team waived Cory Schneider and embraced a full-on rebuild with the hiring of Tom Fitzgerald in early 2020.
Early returns from that season were incredibly promising. Injuries, inconsistent play, and the emergence of Akira Schmid in last year’s playoffs made the then-pending restricted free agent expendable. San Jose acquired him for the low price of a sixth-round draft pick before signing him to a two-year contract.
The few highlights of San Jose’s disastrous year so far have come from Blackwood. An opening night shootout loss against the Colorado Avalanche saw Blackwood stop 51 of 52 shots. Half of his twelve games of action have seen him finish with a save percentage of over .900.
Normally, that wouldn’t be an impressive accomplishment but this is the Sharks we’re talking about. Even more impressive is that four of his starts had him post a save percentage of better than .940. He was the winning goaltender in two of their three wins so far.
It hasn’t been all great for Blackwood. His record is 2-8-1 with an overall save percentage below .900 (.898) and a goals-against average over four (4.02 goals-against average).
His save percentage is so far in line with the past two seasons he saw limited action with the Devils (.892 and .893 in the seasons before this one). That goals-against average would easily be a career-worst if it stands.
Blackwood seems to alternate amazing starts with subpar starts. Yes, he has those four games with a save percentage over .940 but he also has two games with a save percentage in the .700’s and one game with a save percentage in the .600’s.
All three games had him see limited action, being pulled in two of those games while coming in relief in the other.
Let’s say Blackwood’s up-and-down performances in the net slightly lean toward the better. Maybe by the season’s end, those .940 save percentage games outweigh those .800 (or worse) save percentage games.
Will that win Blackwood a Vezina? No, but it will keep the Sharks competitive enough to win a game that they shouldn’t win here or there. At the very least, it will keep them watchable.