The 2013-14 San Jose Sharks have opened their season by scoring 39 goals in 8 games. I'll repeat that. Thirty-nine goals. Eight games. Of all the ways they managed to win down the stretch and into the playoffs a season ago, an insurmountable offense was never really in the cards and it certainly wasn't part of their bag of tricks as they stumbled through the first half of 2013. So far this year, the Sharks have worn out red lights from San Jose to St. Louis and their 6-3 victory over the Calgary Flames tonight was a microcosm of what has made them successful.
They finally have three lines stocked with offensive weapons and players capable of tilting the ice in the team's favor. Some nights it's Tomas Hertl disrespecting the league that gets it done. On others, it's Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture hooking up for offense. Tonight, it was Joe Pavelski, San Jose's nominal third-line center, who posted a four-point night with two goals and two assists that catapulted him into second in the NHL in scoring behind Sidney Crosby and the Sharks to a three-goal win over a division rival.
Despite the final score, this game didn't go quite as smoothly as some of the Sharks' other blowout wins. They got into some uncharacteristic penalty trouble late in the first and early in the second, eventually yielding a power play goal to Sean Monahan minutes into the middle frame. They also had an unceremonious start to the third period as Logan Couture failed to pick up a trailing Mikael Backlund, who potted a Lee Stempniak rebound past Antti Niemi shorthanded. An apparent miscommunication between Pavelski and Scott Hannan left Jiri Hudler wide open in the right circle minutes later to cut the Sharks' lead to one. But a particularly surgical power play restored a two-goal San Jose lead midway through the third.
Speaking of the power play, it's obviously been another aspect of the Sharks' potent offense so far this season but unlike last year, it isn't the centerpiece. They've been able to do their damage at even-strength most nights and haven't even needed the man-advantage but it remains as fearsome as it's ever been. Ultimately the Sharks have shown over the past two weeks and change that they can beat teams in a number of different ways and we got a taste of a new, if uneven, brand of victory tonight.
- Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski are the penalty-killing tandem dreams are made of. They generated their fourth breakaway of the season as a shorthanded unit tonight, although Flames netminder Karri Ramo unfortunately sank them to 0-for-4.
- It's a shame we didn't get to see Pavelski score his first NHL hat trick. Or go for four, for that matter. I like to imagine Pavelski's celebration would involve riding a bald eagle over the Statue of Liberty while wearing the Constitution as a cape. With his cock out, naturally.
- His second goal was later credited to Scott Hannan but Brent Burns had a monster (cue Pierre McGuire) first period in this one, storming the net to score the game-opener, drawing a penalty shot on a breakaway and hitting the goalpost on a laser from the right faceoff dot. What's mind-boggling is that he accomplished all that in just 3:31 of ice time.
- San Jose won 15 of 19 draws in the defensive zone tonight. That's one way to ensure you never have to spend much time there.
- My somber reaction to Hannan and Brad Stuart being reunited as a pairing partway through the first period tonight. We've been over this before but for the umpteenth time: neither of them can advance the puck, they both skate like they're stuck in molasses and their shared inadequacies force the coaching staff to overly shelter them at the detriment of other pairings. Stuart began 71.4% of his non-neutral 5v5 shifts in the offensive zone tonight; those are opportunities that should be going to players like Jason Demers and Matt Irwin who can do something with them.
- On a related note, I miss you Dan Boyle. Come back soon.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Joe Pavelski
2nd Star: Patrick Marleau
3rd Star: Brent Burns