It’s not exactly the record pace they set last season, but the San Jose Sharks again find themselves at the top of the NHL standings. With a 5-4 shootout victory against Edmonton on Friday and a 4-2 win over Vancouver tonight the Fins became the first team to reach the 40 point plateau.
The Edmonton game showed resiliency, as well as leadership from the star players stepping up when needed. Patrick Marleau’s hat trick was probably the easiest he’ll ever score, thanks to the passes Joe Thornton gave him. Its not the playoffs, but its these individual games during the season that will serve as something for the players to draw upon when that time comes.
It helps when Evgeni Nabokov robs players in the shootout too. Anyone wanting to check out his save of the year thus far should look at his flashy glove work on Dustin Penner with a 1-0 lead in the shootout. However, this isn’t all that’s happening this season.
The team isn’t getting into offensive showdowns in every game the way they did the first quarter of last year, they’re winning in a variety of ways and it’s because of games like the one played against the Canucks.
The Canucks got the first goal of the game just two minutes in on a Kyle Wellwood shot coming in on Evgeni Nabokov two-on-one. The rush came from a poor play by every Shark fans favorite signing this offseason: Kent Huskins. Huskins has held his own and played well for most of the season thus far, but lately he’s been making poor plays and it’s costing the Sharks the last couple games.
The Sharks would tie the score on rookie Frazer McLaren’s (no relation to former Shark Kyle McLaren who disapearred off the face of the planet) first NHL goal. McLaren made the hit down low that jarred the puck loose. Joe Pavelski found the puck and centered it towards the net where McLaren headed straight to after his hit and he tapped the puck home past Roberto Luongo. The forechecking in this game was the best the Sharks have had all season so far; they hounded puck carriers, finished their checks, and forced bad turnovers for scoring chances.
In the second period Dan Boyle would score on the power play to put the Sharks up 2-1. The opportunity came on a rebound off…wait for it, yes a Joe Thornton shot. Good things happen when you shoot Jumbo. In the process he picked up his league-leading 30th assist of the season. Then came Nabokov’s turn.
Nabby kept the Sharks ahead by kicking aside shots mostly in the third period where the Canucks dominated play early on. Nabokov would finish with 25 saves, many of which coming with that one-goal lead.
Insurance came late in the third when Manny Malhotra jetted into the zone and took a pass from Ryane Clowe for a mini-breakaway on Luongo. Malhotra faked forehand and went backhand on the Canucks netminder. Pavelski picked up his second assist of the game on this play.
Jamie McGinn would get credit for a goal just 13 seconds later after Jed Ortmeyer forced a turnover in the Vancouver zone. McGinn and Scott Nichol tapped the puck at virtually the same time. This was arguably the Sharks’ best line of the night, and it was nice to see them get rewarded. McGinn in particular was finishing every single check, and really moved his legs all night to get in on the forecheck. Ortmeyer and Nichol played at 110% as always.
The Canucks would get a goal with seven seconds left to make the final score closer at 4-2 but that’s about all it did.
Once again the lines were rolling all night, and technically all four lines scored in this game because McLaren was skating on the fourth line. It was a great team effort, everyone moving well, and putting in solid contributions even if it wasn’t on the scoresheet.
Rob Blake, Torrey Mitchell, and Devin Setoguchi all came back in this game but the latter two got limited action on the fourth line.
The Sharks will come back home for what will be an interesting game against the Ottawa Senators. Yes, that’s Dany Heatley’s former team for those who could somehow forget. I’m sure Jonathan Cheechoo will get a good ovation from the fans in the former fan-favorite’s return to San Jose.
My last prediction was for Pavelski to get two assists, low and behold he did it to continue my streak. Rob Blake didn’t miss a beat coming back from injury, so I think he’ll pick up a point in the next game.
Filed Under: San Jose Sharks
About the Author: I am a journalism senior @ San Diego State University. Live, die and breath all sports; hardcore Bay Area fan. Playing guitar and sports is my downtime, usually in some combination with movies (making and watching).