At this point it’s just getting hilarious. The Sharks continue their dominance, this time exerting their will on one of the best in the west in Vancouver. The game took a massive special teams shift early, which seemed to play right in the Sharks favor, as they were able to convert twice on 7 attempts, and killed all 7 on the Canucks power-play opportunities. After the frustration of not converting in the second boiled over into the 3rd, the Canucks resolved to goon it up, lead by team all time goon , Kevin Bieska.
One of the more interesting ways to look at a game is by expected points (a cousin of win probability), which are the average points accrued by a league average team, at a given point in a game. Here is the chart from tonight's game.
The lightening started right away with another early goal, just 43 seconds in, as Thornton picked up a high rebound on a Vlasic shot to pot it home. Net gain; 0.262 points. Pavelski got his first goal of the season on a beauty, just some 2 and change minutes later. On the forecheck Pavs perfectly read Edlers pass attempt, picking it cleanly, then firing a quick wrister top shelf that left Schneider without a chance. Net gain; 0.244 points.
Vancouver stormed back, not to be left in the dust in the second, finally putting a goal past neimi. This after the Sharks accumulated 10 unanswered goals dating back to the phoenix game. Hansen found Burrows entering the offensive zone, and Burrows threw the puck to the net as Hansen was driving. It had been a little too long since Boyle’s last own goal, and like clockwork, it goes of Boyle’s skate into the net. Are teams actually practicing this now?Net loss; 0.246 points.
The Sharks third goal was built on the back of a massively long power-play shift that essentially drained the Canuck penalty killers off all their energy. A shot from Boyle resulted in some pin-balling in the crease finally coming off of, none other than, the unstoppable Marleau.Net gain; 0.197 points.
Pavelski’s second goal of the game, and the fourth for the Sharks, came on another Sharks power-play. Thanks again to the dizzying work on the power-play the Canucks were moved well out of position and Pavelski was able to walk and unleash a hard slap shot we've come to love, putting the Sharks backup three.Net gain; 0.031 points.
Clearly as the chart above indicates, the Sharks were in the driver seat for much of this game. All the special teams play gave the game a much different feel than the even strength, chance trading we're used to seeing when the Canucks and Sharks meet. Nevertheless, the Sharks converted when it counted.
Assorted game notes
- Scott Gomez still has stone hands when it comes to finding the back of the net. Something we were anticipating, of course. Regardless, it looks like McLellan slowly increased his responsibilities, moving up to center the 2nd line on occasion, even before Clowe was ejected for being too awesome.
- Speaking of Clowe, fuck he loves the penalty box. He ties the sharks record for most penalties in a game with 8. Drew Remenda put it best, "He’s going to have to start paying rent, he’s been in there so much."
- The PK at least to me looked decidedly less aggressive. They haven’t really changed their system very much. A 2-2 box, that morphs into the diamond when faced with an umbrella (which every NHL uses). Most NHL teams exploit this by working the puck to Murray’s side, and take advantage of his lack of speed. I’m not sure there’s a quick fix against that play. The great change thus far has been eliminating the back door pass to the weak-side D moving in (or the weak-side forward), which had been wide open last year.
- The Sharks are following into a pattern of an early lead, followed by pretty mediocre second period. Personally, I’ve got no problem with that. The law of score effects dictates that teams with the lead must be outshot, and even the Sharks can’t escape.
- Speaking of special teams. The Sharks have been doing something special, and it’s not just a absolutely crazy high shooting percentage. The sharks are using 4 forwards, but instead of having someone like Pavs sit back in a D-man like role, they’ve given the green light for each Shark to occupy any position on the ice, including Boyle. They’re base setup is a revolving door between an umbrella (3 up high, 2 down low), and an overload (3 on the half wall). The interchange of players throughout the PP, from center back to defense, makes it nearly impossible for PKers to pickup where the passing lanes are. The primary job for PKers is to block shots, and get in passing lanes. If you can’t predict where the passing lanes are, it’s going to be really difficult to get into shooting lanes. We’ll see as this season plays out, how teams adjust to this new look PP the Sharks have created.