SAN JOSE, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Joe Thornton #19 and Thomas Greiss #1 of the San Jose Sharks celebrate defeating the Anaheim Ducks in a NHL pre-season hockey game 5-1 at HP Pavilion on September 23, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Plenty of story lines tonight.
First thing first, the Sharks remain undefeated, striking thrice against Vancouver's Cory Schneider, once on the power play. It was San Jose's fifth win of the preseason, a streak that means something in some ways but little in others.
The significance lies in the fact that the Sharks have meshed well, which is important considering the amount of changes they made in the off season. Second, the systems all seemed to be working as well as possible; the Sharks were 1 for 4 on the power play, 5 for 5 on the penalty kill and played a tight defensive style that kept Vancouver scoreless throughout the tilt.
"The guys are getting used to each other," said Sharks' captain Joe Thornton after the game. "It takes about two weeks, ten days, it was good to see the guys play well."
Play well they have, but it comes with a bit of a caveat: the Vancouver team they were playing was much different than the one they saw last year or will likely see in the regular season. The Canucks' stars didn't play tonight, and while the roster was full of NHL caliber players, it wasn't exactly the clash of the titans that the match-up will be billed as when the two meet later in the year.
"I think [the Canucks] are going to be better in the regular season," stated Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss, who stopped 25 shots for the shutout. "I think we played good though, we out battled them a lot too, an important part of the game."
In front of Greiss, who played an exceptional brand of his occasionally manic style, the Sharks dominated much of the play. Joe Thornton played a terrific game, showing off his nifty mitts on a standing deke then pass to Pavelski. Thornton would get another assist later in the game, feeding Boyle in the high slot.
The third goal of the game, though, came from an unlikely source. Although it was a near-meaningless tally considering the circumstance (an insurance goal late in the third period of a preseason game), it may have saved the career of a young forward.
Coming into tonight, Jamie McGinn had all but lost his spot to Tommy Wingels. When training camp started, McGinn seemed like a near shoo-in to start the year on the third line, but disappointing play from McGinn and impressive outings by Wingels put the former player in danger of losing not only that third-line spot, but a roster spot as well. Hard to believe, but at just 23, it seemed McGinn was running out of chances to stick in San Jose.
McGinn was having a so-so night, a performance that wouldn't have stood out enough for him to make a real impression. Then, with about five minutes of the third period to play, he scored a goal that should remind his critics why he was such a highly-touted prospect. Forehand, backhand, top-shelf over Schneider's glove.
"If anyone has been following him throughout the exhibition season, this was his best night," said coach Todd McLellan of McGinn, who in the coaches' eye, had lost some ground to Wingels before this game. "He played to a menu that he has to. He was rugged, he created turnovers off the forecheck, and he was solid in his own end. He's a big man that can be involved on a nightly basis."
And the goal?
"If Ginner (McGinn) chips in every now and then, we're happy," said McLellan. "It's not about scoring for him; it's about all the other things he has to do. The reward for him at the end of the night is the win and then the goal as well, but he won't be evaluated purely on goals and assists."
While that may be true in principle, McGinn is going to have to score a bit to keep up with Wingels, who has three goals of his own this preseason. McLellan continued to be impressed with Wingels tonight, as the forward showed versatility by playing on three different lines, seeing time on both the power play and penalty kill, and earning the game's second star honors in the process.
The Sharks will play their last preseason game Saturday, October 1st against Phoenix. While many believe the last preseason game is more or less a formality, that won't be the case for Wingels or McGinn.
Preseason or not, Sharks fans should be paying attention.