The losing streak is over. Tonight Sharks Territory is breathing a long awaited sign of relief.
This long streak of losses was like winter storms in Northern California. We don't remember about the rain for most of the year, but when winter comes and it rains for longer than an hour, Bay Area turns into chaos - streets get flooded, I-17 gets shut down, car accidents are seen on every street corner and overall feeling of panic on the road prevails. When it rains for more than a day, the weather dominates the news and no one can think about anything else. But then the storm clears, and life goes back to normal sunny weather that lasts months.
Here in San Jose the fans have been spoiled during the past regular seasons since the lockout, as the Sharks kept racking up 50+ victories seasons one after another. During the regular season the wins are taking for granted, and "regular season win don't matter" cliche is heard again and again. But once the Sharks trip few times in a row, all of a sudden, regular season starts to matter again, and every game becomes "a preview of playoffs" to these same fans.
This has been a very stressful week here at Fear the Fin. We've written numerous articles and had even longer debates in comments on what is wrong with Nabokov, the team, coaches, other players, overall mood of this team and even some of the posters on this blog.
What we expected from the team finally came to fruition tonight, as the Sharks beat the Wild 4-1. Here is how it happened:
- Nabokov finally played like he played before the Olympics, staying sharp all night long, and allowing just one goal on 19 shots on goal.
- Defense finally looked like they were talking the same language. When one defenseman stayed behind, another d-man or a forward covered his back.
- Penalty kill unit finally killed penalties. The Wild scored their only goal on a PP, but other than that, PK units were successful.
- No idiotic penalties from Brad Staubitz. 2:01 of playing time may have something to do with it.
- Joe Pavelski scored another beauty of a goal to open the scoring in this game. When is he going to stop and score an ugly goal for a change? When Sharks scored the first goal of the game, we knew the story may finally have a happy ending.
- The Big Three from the former HTML line have all worked hard in the corners, back checked, and blocked shots. All three got on the scoreboard as well, with goals from Heatley and Thornton and an assist for Marleau. Joe Thornton's even strength time was still limited to just 11:29 (which is lower than Couture's or Mitchell's even strength time, for comparison), but when Thornton was out there, he chased every puck.
- McLellan's line shuffling might have finally worked. As Versus commentators noted, McLellan put all Big Three players on the lines with hard working blue color players. Who knows if this is the approach McLellan will take going forward, but I finally saw a purpose for this crazy mix and match.
- Rob Blake was the best player on the ice tonight, finishing the night with 3 assists and a +3 rating. Tonight he led by example.