Friday, October 31, 2008

Sharks Dine on Wings

The San Jose Sharks came into Thursday night's game leading the NHL with the fewest shots against per contest. They were also second to the Red Wings in shots for, leaving them with the best shot differential in the league.

But until the Sharks played Pittsburgh Tuesday, they had not played anyone who had a winning record. Now they had to play the defending Stanley Cup champions, the team that provided the blueprint for the Sharks new style of play. The team that was 7-1-2, with victories over the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes on the road and the red-hot New York Rangers.

Different class of opponent, same result. The Sharks out-shot Detroit 33-27, but 27-13 through the first two periods when they established a firm lead in the game.

Despite the Sharks' domination early, the Red Wings got on board first. On the first shift of the second period, Marian Hossa got to a loose puck and fired through Evgeni Nabokov's five hole.

The Sharks have been dominant in the second periods of game thus far this season, much as in the past two. I'm not sure I understand this, and if there is one period I would least choose to dominate, it's the second. I'd much rather jump on teams early or close late. I hope this does not come back to hurt us late in the season as it has in previous years.

The Sharks must have remembered which period they were in less than seven minutes later, when they began a barrage of three goals in 3:25 with a beautiful feed from Joe Thornton from behind the net to Patrick Marleau for the one-timer on goalie Ty Conklin's back-side.

Two minutes later, Jamie McGinn got his first NHL goal by punching in a rebound. Just over a minute after that, Ryan Clowe took a feed from behind the goalline from Milan Michalek and one-timed it past Conklin for his fourth goal of the season, all on the power play.

At 6:08 of the third, Joe Pavelski capped the Sharks scoring by poking in a one-timer from a no-look, backhand pass from along the boards from Devin Setoguchi that went between a Detroit defender's legs. Brian Rafalski capped off all scoring on the night by pinching in for a one-timer with 32 seconds left in the game.

Aside from what has been listed above, the Sharks had other assists from McGinn, Pavelski, Jody Shelley, Tomas Plihal, and another from Setoguchi. Detroit had assists from Valtteri Filppula, Tomas Kopecky, and Tomas Holmstrom.

This contest was everything you would expect from two Stanley Cup contenders: the Sharks only had four giveaways in this game and 17 blocked shots. Detroit had only seven giveaways and 14 blocked shots. Both teams had only four minor penalties, and only two which resulted in a power play, but the Sharks outhit the Wings 29-16, including a 14-4 edge in the first period.

It should be noted that not only were the Red Wings on the road, they were coming off an overtime loss in Anaheim the previous night. That was also why they had their back-up goalie in net, although one could see why Conklin had been unbeaten until Thursday--he kept the Wings in the game early with several tremendous first period saves.

It is hard not to consider the Sharks the team to beat so far this season, but it is too early to begin sizing up the trophy case--remember 16 players from this roster were involved in the franchise-best March run that gave the Sharks the second best record in hockey last season, only to finish with a losing record in the playoffs.

However, it can be nothing but encouraging to see the Sharks dominate another opponent, especially one with so much skill, experience, and resilience.

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