When it comes to scoreless losses, most of them create bitter brain cells in the section of my brain reserved for hockey. All losses suck, but the ones when Sharks fail to register a goal are extra tough to take. But occasionally, those losses don't feel like losses, and tonight was one of them, as San Jose Sharks visited Minnesota Wild to start a mini road trip and fell 0-1.
The most telling stat of the night tonight - the shot total, 36 - 16 in favor of San Jose. In the first period alone, Minnesota managed to put just three shots on Anterro Niittymaki, despite being on the power play twice. Only one of those three shots came from a forward. The Sharks shot and puck possession dominance continued throughout the game whenever the teams played even strength.
However, it took two things to prevent the Sharks from earning points in this game.
First, it was a perfect game by Nicklas Backstrom. He made no mistakes tonight and during several moments was the only reason why the puck did not go in. At one point in the second period Logan Couture skated past two Wild defensemen and had just Backstrom to beat. Young Sharks forward (who was the best forward on the ice tonight) did everything right as he shot the puck in one of the corners. Not only did Backstrom came out the big save with his pads, but he also covered the follow up shot by Couture. When I saw Backstrom making that save, I knew it was going to be his night.
Second, another battle that the Sharks lost tonight was in the penalties taking department. They took nine penalties on the night versus six by the Wild. Where was Staubitz tonight when we needed him? Oh right, he was only on the ice for three minutes. The most costly Sharks penalty happened in the 2nd period when John McCarthy was first sent to the box with double-minor penalty for high sticking. Just a minute later Torrey Mitchell joined him for a hooking call, giving the Wild 5-on-3 power play opportunity for almost three minutes. It took the Wild just 41 seconds to score a goal, as wide open Andrew Brunett shot the puck past Niittymaki after a perfect delivery from Havlat. The Sharks did kill the rest of the penalty time, but that goal turned out to be game winning.
Unlike the slaughter in Calgary two weeks ago, San Jose looked strong on offense, on defense and in goal. The Wild did manage to shut down Sharks offense that scored 10 goals in the last two games. But we don't expect every goaltender from now on to play the way Backstrom did tonight.
So we move on.