Contrary to your author's (former) beliefs, it seems as if the Flames can bring the offensive heat every once in awhile.
They picked a heckuva night to do it.
Miikka Kiprusoff earned his 300th career win in his former barn, Olli Jokinen scored three goals for a hatless HP Pavilion hat trick, and the Sharks struggled with turnovers and intensity throughout the night in their 4-3 loss.
Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Michal Handzus had the tallies for San Jose, with Jarome Iginla scoring the other marker for the Flames.
Losing Dan Boyle before the game to a bout with the flu didn't help San Jose's chances tonight of course, as the Sharks defensive pairings managed to put in a rather pedestrian affair without their primary puck mover.
As Todd McLellan put it after the game however, Boyle's absence, while making the heart grow even fonder for his skating and minutes eating ability, shouldn't have played as big a role as it did throughout the game.
"I thought it had a huge impact. Danny’s a tremendous player; he means a lot to our hockey club, but we should be able to work our way through it," McLellan said. "With him in the lineup, we still [would have] made line changes the way we did and stayed on the ice for as long as we did; it wouldn’t have mattered. He wouldn’t have been on the ice for all the turnovers that we made.
"It was a team loss. We missed him of course, but he’ll be back, and we’ll be better."
The Sharks came out of the gates lacking the necessary drive, giving up 15 shots in the opening frame to a Flames team that usually doesn't reach that total until about midway through the second period. They would escape with only one goal against however, as Antti Niemi managed to keep the score from getting out of hand in the early going as Calgary piled up the chances.
That really was the story of the night for Niemi-- despite giving up 4 goals throughout the course of the game, it's hard to fault the Finnish netminder for any of the goals against. I'm sure one could make a case for him getting over and tightening up the holes on the second goal against, but a botched clear behind the net that trickled out front to Jokinen is something that can be considered as big a fault as any. He was one of the better Sharks players against Calgary and did pretty much everything that can reasonably be expected of him during the night.
Speaking of meeting or exceeding expectations, the Sharks top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Joe Pavelski caused some absolute havoc for the Flames once they were reunited in the second period. With the team without the services of Martin Havlat for nearly two months now it has become rarer and rarer for McLellan to load up three of his most talented forwards on the same line.
It's hard to fault him for trying to balance out the scoring depth, and pairing either Benn Ferriero, Andrew Desjardins, or Tommy Wingels with Thornton makes as much sense as any, but the lack of top-line polish from those aforementioned three players has been readily apparent in their time spent on the top line.
After their performance tonight, with Pavelski getting a goal and Thornton and Marleau leading the team with six shots apiece, I think a case is to be made that you stick with that combination heading into Friday night's game against a severely struggling Chicago team. The Sharks love to go power versus power when they have the opportunity to do so, and with the Blackhawks struggling, that's going to be a matchup that the Sharks would be hard pressed to ignore as they try to get back into the win column.
All of these positive things considered however, tonight's loss does feel like one that got away. It's hard to pin so much of the result on that brutal first period, as San Jose escaped only down by one and managed to knot the game at two in rapid succession during the second period, but it did have an impact in that San Jose missed out on an opportunity to control the game from the outset and put Calgary in a position where they needed to play from behind.
As for the turnovers that plagued their game, I wouldn't state that they were systematic-- I thought San Jose actually did a fairly good job overall of keeping the giveaway count down and making sure they had quality gap control to push Calgary to the outside and make room for their backchecking forwards to clean up everything on the rush. What killed them tonight was the untimeliness of them-- whether that be a giveaway in the defensive zone which ends up in the back of the net on the game-winner, a failure to clear the zone multiple times on the Flames' first, or an indecisive read in the neutral zone that leads to the third goal, the breakdowns that sprung up at inopportune times for San Jose were what led to the loss.
Figuring out how to eliminate those mistakes in time for Friday's tilt against Chicago will be essential, as the Blackhawks are a team that thrives in transition against the Sharks.