I'm beginning to think that the San Jose Sharks read fan forums, and have been trying to come up with ways to respond to the concerns of the fans. After a huge expose on secondary scoring, they opened the floodgates for the 9-1 thrashing of the Calgary Flames. Questions are raised about consistency, about being able to keep that up, and they respond by handing the Los Angeles Kings a 5-1 smashing. The focus shifts back to defensive lapses, brought on thew ill wind that Dan Boyle is going to miss a game or two, and the defense leads the way to a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, creating a perfect 5-0 record against them this season.
Any time a team is out their main minute-eating machine, not to mention arguably their most solid, well-rounded defenseman overall, there's going to be trouble. I think the Sharks dealt with the adversity pretty well, even if we set aside for a moment the goals by Rob Blake (not suprising) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (wait, what?). I thought Jason Demers did a great job jumping up on the special teams to fill the obvious void left by Boyle's absence; no, the defense wasn't perfect, but I think the Sharks actually did a lot better last night in their own zone then they did earlier this week against L.A. The Ducks had their chances, but some solid play (and the continued miraculous showing from Evgeni Nabakov) brought this one home. There was one clear defensive lapse in the early third period, allowing Anaheim's Matt Belesky to drive off Nabby's elusive chase for shutout number 50.
So, with the dread of Boyle's absence (and the defensive woes in general) handily served back on a platter of What Now, Bitches?, it's time to move on to the next concern, right? This may be a bit of a reach, but I was starting to feel a bit edgy about the HTML / Burger Line. Dany Heatley hasn't been producing at the clip he was a bit earlier on; part of that may just be the fact that we're getting so much from the second/third lines and defense, but still -- he is, by the admission of himself and Sharks staff, a goal scorer, and that's what we should expect him to do. Patrick Marleau has been looking a little worn, as well. His empty-netter late last night was a great pad to his league-leading totals (though Randy or Drew claimed that Alex Ovechkin had caught him earlier that night. I think they added his two tallies in the Washington Capital's victory over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to Crosby's totals. Not sure what they were thinking, unless Cindy and Ovi are really starting to turn into one person...), but it was just that -- a late empty-netter. That's not to play down the laser skill he demonstrated to get the puck back after his own mis-feed to Heatley (does Patty have the same concerns as I do?), but I never get too excited about someone scoring on an absent goalie.
That said, I do think we've seen some decent play from the line. I'm not terribly worried about that -- just the 'putting it in the net'. I'd love to see more of what Joe Thornton served on Rob Blake's stick; even Blake admitted he never saw that pass until it hit the blade and deflected flawlessly into the goal. A pass like that is not something that most people in the NHL can pull off, but Jumbo makes it seem almost easy with the skill and precision with which he moved the rubber into position. It's difficult to say this, but I don't think that play would have ever been possible if Boyle had been on the ice -- seeing Blake jump up into the play like that is just not quite the norm, to say the least, and if the defensive pairings hadn't gotten the shuffle they did, I'm pretty sure he'd never have been anywhere near that net. We might be looking at another two-goal night from Marleau if that had been the case.
I also just have to throw out the one other random stat that Randy and Drew brought up last night -- the Sharks are now 8-1 (edited, thanks Gray) this season in games with multiple fights. Both of the fights in this little ditty came in the first period, as Ryane Clowe beat the tar out of George Parros in some sort of bizzaro-world MMA showing (Who knew Clowe could block a punch?), and Brad Staubitz handled Nick Boynton a little later (though I don't think he had quite the clear victory). In other stat-shot news, Rob Blake's goal tied him with Sharks GM Doug Wilson for 10th place in all-time goals by a defenseman. Speaking of Blake, I caught an interesting inference from his Three Stars interview; something to the effect of how great he felt it was to have had the chance to start his career with Gretzky, and "finish it here with Thornton." (emphasis mine) -- now, we all know that it's a foregone conclusion that the Sharks captain is near the end of his career, but still, to hear it coming from him ... it casts me to the future, wondering who's going to pin the 'C' on their chest next season, especially if the Sharks take the Cup this year, though I suspect that Blake and his Stanley Cup Ring may walk even if they don't.