Sharks Gameday: Game 2 in Sweden

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12:00 PST
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0-1-0, 0 points 1-0-0, 2 points
T-Last in Western Conference
T-1st in Western Conference

Television
CBC, NHLN, CSN-CA
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
The Cannon
Blue Jackets Xtra

Many came into the season fearing the worst. The defense was below solid, there were questions about the goaltending. 

Those issues didn't look so bad yesterday afternoon, or night, depending on your time zone. 

The defense wasn't great, admittedly. I'd venture to say at times that they were "pylonesque", allowing too much creativity in their defensive zone. They were fine on the rush, but once possession was gained, the defense often retreated into a penalty killing look. That's got to be part of McLellan's game plan; let the defense (who aren't the most fleet footed) stick near the net and prevent rebound opportunities while the forwards pressure the puck carrier. It worked against Columbus, but it remains to be seen if that type of game plan will work against teams with more firepower.

However, credit the defense for standing strong and limiting Columbus to just one power play conversion in seven opportunities. Part of that was Niemi, who I'll touch on in a minute, but team defense was strong considering the lack of individual talent on the blue line. Even Doug Wilson must see that he'll need to make a move for defense eventually, but at least he's put together a group that appears to be more than the sum of it's parts... for the time being. Tempered expectations after one game.

Speaking of the defense, I was really impressed with Jason Demers. I'm still of the belief that his promise made a trade for Tomas Kaberle unnecessary, because he looked very good with the puck in his time on the ice yesterday. He also played a pretty decent game defensively, considering it's not his forte. That hit he threw stepping up in the neutral zone was nuts.

All in all, though, the defense was just decent. But I think that will win the Sharks games if the goaltending was as good as we saw last night. Antti Niemi played a masterful game in net. If he plays this way every game (don't think that's possible, but here's to optimism), he's going to keep the team in a lot of games (and Niittymaki on the bench). At the end of the day, it's all about outscoring your opponent and Niemi will have some wiggle room if he plays the way he did last night. Antero Niittymaki will get the nod today, as it's a back to back, but I think Niemi mad a big step in winning the 1A spot yesterday. 

It helped that the Sharks offense looked incredible, as expected. The three line set was solid, and damn if Couture didn't look talented between Heatley and Marleau. If Mason wasn't standing on his head in the second and third, the Sharks could have scored six more. I'm expecting big things.

Prediction: Sharks win 5-3. Goals by Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski (x2), Clowe and Heater.

 

Go Sharks.

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