SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 31: Jim Vandermeer #2 of the San Jose Sharks exchanges punches with Jared Boll #40 of the Columbus Blue Jackets for a second time during an NHL hockey game at HP Pavilion at San Jose on January 31, 2012 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 6-0. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
With the All-Star break behind them, the Sharks wanted to get off to a good start with less than half a season to play.
They did that, and more.
The Sharks came out of the gates with guns-a-blazin', spurred in part by an early dirty hit on their marquee player. Just twenty seconds into the first period, the Sharks would head to the power play after Jarred Boll threw a high elbow on Joe Thornton, which connected with Thornton's head. After the game, Thornton said that Boll's early actions definitely got the Sharks moving.
"It wakes you up and lets you know that you're in a game," said Thornton of the elbow. "We need these points, it was a scrappy game, and it was a good way to start post-All-Star break."
The ensuing man advantage was an extremely disjointed effort, with the missed passes and poor zone entries that have followed the Sharks around lately. But although San Jose would fail to cash in on that opportunity (and at that point, were at just a 14% success rate in their last fifty power play tries), it wouldn't take them long to get a goal on the board. At 7:54 of the period, Patrick Marleau took a rebound that was left in the crease and danced around Steve Mason to slide the puck in easily.
Just two minutes later, Andrew Desjardins pressured Fedor Tyutin in the corner, who gave the puck right to Joe Thornton as if he was wearing a Columbus sweater. Thornton put a shot off Mason's pads and took his own rebound, scoring on the subsequent shot from a tough angle.
Although that was all the scoring in the first, it's realistic to think that the Sharks could have had more. At that point, they had 18 shots, on pace for 56.
The second period would begin with Columbus pressuring the Sharks in their own zone for a good while, but San Jose got a break when Derick Brassard interfered with a Shark in the offensive zone and sent San Jose back to the man advantage. With Joe Pavelski playing on the point, the special teams unit would finally convert. A Pavelski shot from the point ramped off a falling Derek MacKenzie and over Steve Mason.
"Pavelski's been on the point now for a little while," said coach Todd McLellan of the retro look on the power play. "We're consistently getting something from that first unit now and maybe we're turning the corner."
Many of the breaks that the Sharks got were off rebounds from Mason, and would add their fourth goal of the game as the result of another. It's something that the Sharks identified about Mason pre game, and executed to perfection.
"We wanted to create rebounds," stated McLellan, "we wanted to get to the blue paint and score some ugly goals. We were lucky enough to do that."
Back to the fourth goal: Jamie McGinn got an opportunity off a Douglas Murray shot, and scored his career-high tying 10th goal of the year. It's been a revelation of a season for McGinn, a season where he's on pace to score 17 goals. The Sharks are getting everything they could have wanted from the still young forward. McGinn, who acknowledges that this season is much different than last, offered some reasons why he's faring so much better this year.
"I was working hard last year," said McGinn, "but it just wasn't my year. So I trained hard in the summer and I was ready to go this year because I din't want that to happen to me two years in a row. I'm glad I got the opportunity to play on the third line and I think Zus is helping me a lot. I'm just going to continue to shoot the puck and work hard and do what's made me successful this year.
The Sharks wouldn't stop at four, though. Michal Handzus got a goal of his own in the third period after McGinn drove to the net and left a loose puck right in the crease. Later in the period, the Sharks would score their sixth goal on a perfectly executed breakout. Joe Pavelski found Joe Thornton right across the slot for Thornton's second goal of the night.
The scoring would stop there, and although many fans left the arena with time remaining, there was plenty left to see. Multiple fights occurred, with 93 minutes of penalty time dolled out between the teams in total tonight. Perhaps the most unlikely fighting pair was Dan Boyle and Derick Brassard, who faced off after Boyle took Brassard hard into the boards.
"I fight once every two years, so it doesn't happen very often," said Boyle, who stated the fight gave him something to remember his 800th game by. "I'm just glad I came out of it without breaking anything. When I was younger I used to do it a little more, but I'm too old for that now and it's not part of my game anymore."
Another interesting tidbit from the dwindling minutes of the third was Brent Burns giving everything he had to make a beautiful backcheck on what looked like a sure breakaway. Winning 6-0 and coming off an injury, Burns didn't have to do what he did, but he showed about as much heart as you can and went all out to help a teammate.
All in all, it was a game filled with emotional overtones. First, the Sharks were celebrating two other career accomplishments; aside from Boyle, Burns was playing in his 500th game and Douglas Murray was playing in his 400th. In addition, Columbus is a desperate team fighting to grab hold of any positive they can. When things didn't go their way, the fists started flying.
That aside, it was a very positive first step for the Sharks. The top six had a big game, Antti Niemi had a shutout and played well, and the team played far above their competition. Continuing this trend can only spell good things for San Jose.