Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sharks Bounce Back After Loss to Ducks

There are three tough lessons the Sharks and their fans should now have learned:

1. If Evgeni Nabokov plays the night before (and not well) and then travels, he should not be put in net again. Brian Boucher is a good goalie who had a shutout in his only performance, so what are you afraid of?
2. The power play really does stink. No one moves their feet, just like last year, and the results are maddening. The Sharks have scored four goals all season, and only two since opening night. Saturday the team failed to score on a full two-minute five-on-three and gave up as many short-handed goals (one) as they scored in seven chances.
3. The Sharks can dominate play on still be scrambling to stay in a game. They have now done that two games in a row.

However, there are also a couple positives that can be taken out of this. One everyone should already know: keep working and good things will happen.

But the Sharks also killed both penalties, raising their penalty kill percentage to 84.6. This is good for twelfth in the league, and they are now tied with Philadelphia in short-handed goals with three. Thus, the Sharks have scored and given up seven goals on special teams.

San Jose also got 19 of 45 shots and two of five goals from the defencemen. Christian Ehrhoff got the Sharks on the board less than two minutes into the second period to cut the lead to 2-1. Dan Boyle got the game-winner 1:25 into overtime.

While both teams had exceptional shooting percentages, the goaltending was not as bad as it looked statistically. Antero Nittymaki made a world-class save on a shot by Jonathan Cheechoo and kept his team in the game; he even earned the second star.

Evgeni Nabokov may have saved only 13 of 17 (.765), but he was exposed thanks to 18 Sharks turnovers.

On the first Flyers goal, Rob Blake gave up the puck and was caught out of position, allowing Philadelphia to go on the attack. Then a Kimo Timmonen shot from the point caromed off Nabokov, and Daniel Briere was alone on the side of the net for the easy rebound. Marcel Goc had left the centre and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic failed to rotate over, meaning three Sharks failed on that shift.

The next two goals were ones Nabokov should have had, however. At the end of the first period, Braydon Cobourn lifted a backhand from the top of the circle. About a third of the way through the second, a Jeff Carter short-handed wrister from the face-off dot beat Nabby to his glove side.

However, the last goal was an incredible move by Daniel Briere on a breakway given up by Alexei Semenov, who somehow managed to be +1 anyway.

After being down 3-1, the Sharks got big goals from Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Pavelski. Cheech's was on a redirection of a Vlasic shot, and Joe Pavelski split two defenders to recover his own rebound and tie the game. After Briere's second goal, Devin Setoguchi scooped up a rebound and dragged it past a sprawling Nittymaki before backhanding it into the open net.

The Sharks got assists from Joe Thornton, Boyle (2), Vlasic (2), Ehrhoff, Jeremy Roenick, Ryan Clowe, Mike Grier, and Cheechoo.

However, Vlasic was -2 and had a bad turnover. Thornton was also not having a good game through the first two periods, and was one of the chief reasons the Sharks were not executing well on the power play. He was telegraphing all his moves and not even looking to the net.

But with about three minutes remaining in the third, he provided the defensive play that sprung the two-on-one break in which Nittymaki stole Cheechoo's goal. More importantly, he made the play to set up Boyle's game winner with some nifty stick-handling.

For my money, the best players on the ice for the Sharks were, in order, Boyle (three points, +1), Cheechoo (two points), and Ehrhoff (two points and was great in position and defensive use of his stick, but did have a bad turnover). The best Flyers were Briere (two goals), Timmonen (+1, two assists and some good defensive plays), Carter (+1, two points), and Mike Knuble (+2, two assists).

My three stars: Boyle, Briere, Timmonen.

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