Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sharks Drop TOugh Game in Florida

The San Jose Sharks did not lose Friday night, Tomas Vokoun won. Don't get me wrong, the Sharks made their fair share of mistakes, giving up four goals for the fourth game in a row (2-2).

However, unlike the previous three contests, goaltending was not the problem. The defence is solely to blame for that figure Friday night, exposing Evgeni Nabokov on all four of the goals scored (35 shots: .886 save percentage).

Corey Stillman was left open for a one-timer in the middle just inside the blueline to tie the game at one. Richard Zednik was left all alone to clean up a rebound and Nathan Horton was left all alone for a backside feed to Nabby's glove side to close out Florida's scoring in the first.

With under two minutes to go in the second, Stillman redirected a beautiful shot-pass from Keith Ballard, one of his three assists. This came just 37 seconds after Patty Marleau's short-handed goal tied things up.

But the goals were not the only prime chances Nabby faced. He saved his team's bacon on a Dan Boyle giveaway right in front of the net with a beautiful glove save. After a Sharks power play ended with over 13 minutes to go in the third, Florida got four scoring chances in a 90 second-plus span of extended attack resembling a power play.

That attack began when Mike Grier failed to clear the puck, and this is one weakness the Sharks have shown over and over that needs to be addressed. He finally had to ice the puck and San Jose called a timeout to recover. It was not a great game for Grier, whose brother and nephews were shown in the audience: he did have a nice assist on Patty's short-handed goal, but he also was the player who left Horton alone for his goal.

The Sharks had 34 shots and 17 scoring chances through two periods compared to 23 and 12, respectively, for Florida. Nabby turned away all 12 shots he faced in the third period, but Vokoun was more than equal to the task.

Throughout the game, he turned away 47 of 50 shots for a save percentage of .940. And that statistic does not do him justice, as there were several times those shots came on prime scoring chances.

Looking only at the third period, less than two minutes in, the Sharks looked to have evened the score on a scramble for a loose puck in front of the Florida net. Marleau raised his hands in celebration only to find out that Noah Welch had turned Jonathan Cheechoo's rebound of the captain's shot aside just before it went into the net.

Then on a power play with over seven minutes to go, Ryan Clowe had a redirect and a rebound from it on net but came up empty. Finally, with over a minute to go and Nabby pulled, the Sharks could not put home a loose puck in front of Vokoun.

On the plus side, the Sharks did well on special teams. In addition to Patty's shorthanded goal, Joe Thornton netted his first goal of the year on a power play in the game's first minute, and Ryan Clowe had a redirect of a Christian Ehrhoff shot in the second. Meanwhile, they killed off all three penalties and gave up no go shorties of their own on their five power plays.

San Jose travels to Tampa to take on the Lightning next, Saturday at 4:30pm PDT. The game will not be televised except on the Centre Ice package. Let's hope we will see Brian Boucher (a shutout in his only other action) in net so we know Todd McLellan will not repeat the stubbourn mistakes of his predecessor in overplaying his top goalie.

No comments: