March 24, 2023

After scoring just one goal in his first 11 games of the season, San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier finally broke through with a two-goal night in a shootout loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Meier led the Sharks in goals last season but struggled to find the same level of production to begin the current campaign until Tuesday’s contest. Even though it was only one game, Meier’s performance against Anaheim provided a number of positive indications that he can use as momentum for upcoming games and the rest of the season.

Meier’s Slow Start

Simply put, Meier’s opening to the season wasn’t anywhere near where it needed to be. In his first nine games, he didn’t score a goal, had just two assists and was a minus-6 during his time on the ice as the Sharks managed just two wins. So, while he wasn’t scoring, he wasn’t producing much for his linemates, and it’s not like he was playing lockdown defense either.

Timo Meier San Jose Sharks
Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

These early offensive difficulties have resulted from a number of factors. But Meier’s biggest challenge has been his odd combination of being too aggressive and not aggressive enough.

With regard to the former, Meier has tried to force plays on many occasions. He will make bad passes that aren’t likely to create scoring opportunities, and often runs into trouble while looking for his own scoring chances. Defenses have focused on him, and the strategy is working — Meier has committed 14 turnovers, tied for fifth-most in the NHL thus far, and he will need to play much smarter hockey in order to return to his usual output.

On the other hand, Meier’s shot numbers are falling short of what should be expected of a team’s best offensive player. In his first eight games this season, he attempted more than five shots just once. It’s no secret that taking more shots increases your chances of scoring, and while Meier shouldn’t just start firing away haphazardly, he could afford to look for his own shot a bit more.

However, even as he continuously failed to find the back of the net, the Sharks organization and fanbase remained hopeful that the struggles wouldn’t last. He was just too skilled, and a breakthrough had to come at some point.

Beginning the Turnaround

The first major sign of improvement for Meier came on Oct. 25 against the Vegas Golden Knights, when he put up eight shots, a season high for him at the time. He still didn’t score as his season-opening goal drought extended to a ninth and final game, but he had reached a level of confidence and aggression that he hadn’t displayed up to that point. He was doing more of the right things on offense and waiting for a payoff, which finally came in the following game with a deflection goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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But if the Toronto game was the breakthrough, the matchup with the Ducks was the culmination. Meier was credited for two goals, and even though one of them didn’t actually go in off his stick, both were the result of his effort and making the right play.

The first goal was the perfect example of the determination that Meier needs to show if he wants to return to his role as San Jose’s offensive leader. With the Sharks on the power play, he led the rush into their offensive zone after a Ducks clearance. This re-entry is often the most challenging part of a power play, so Meier decided to do it himself. It proved to be the correct decision. He got knocked down, but quickly got back up, stuck with the play and scored.

Meier’s second goal was actually an own goal on the part of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg, but Meier’s contribution to it deserves to be recognized nonetheless. He hustled up the ice with the puck, made an aggressive move and forced Silfverberg to take a desperation swipe at the puck that ended up going into the net.

For too much of the season, Meier has failed to consistently do the tasks on the ice needed to score goals. Against Anaheim, he did, and it showed up in the box score.

What Comes Next?

Of course, a solid single-game performance is not a guaranteed indicator that Meier’s problems have been solved. There are still multiple steps he can take to produce a more consistent offensive output. The primary objective, of course, is to continue being aggressive. It would be very easy for Meier to become complacent after his first multi-goal game of the season, but instead, he needs to use it as an opportunity to increase his effort.

But Meier has even more offensive potential to tap into, and that may actually start at the other end of the ice. His plus/minus remains in the negative, indicating that his defense has not been up to par. Defense can lead to offense, especially for forwards, and he needs to step up in this regard to fully return to form.

Meier is perhaps the Sharks’ most skilled offensive player, and over the last few games, he has begun to affirm this theory. Now it’s time for him to keep it going.

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