In the final game of their 2013 schedule, the Sharks may have managed to play their worst period of the entire calendar year. The second period tonight, in which they were outshot by division-leading Anaheim 25-8, outchanced 14-3 and outscored 3-2, sealed their fate in a 6-3 blowout loss that ensures San Jose remains 7 points behind the Ducks in the standings, just as they were prior to this home-and-home series.
Despite dominating for most of the first period, the Sharks were repeatedly foiled by franchise nemesis Jonas Hiller and ended up yielding a goal on one of just five shots allowed. But if they had been able to maintain that level of play over the final forty minutes, we might be discussing a different result right now. Instead, San Jose became inexplicably incapable of managing the puck wisely with repeated turnovers and poorly executed breakouts feeding the Ducks' transition offense and resulting in Anaheim spending nearly the entire middle frame camped out in the Sharks zone.
One particularly egregious sequence in which an apparent miscommunication between Freddie Hamilton and Tyler Kennedy left the puck in the San Jose end with Ducks forwards still in deep resulted in a handful of scoring opportunities and, eventually, Francois Beauchemin putting away a rebound for a 2-1 Ducks lead eleven minutes into the second. Logan Couture would get that goal back, sneaking in behind Hampus Lindholm courtesy a beautiful pass from Patrick Marleau, but it was only a matter of time before the Ducks cashed in on the bevy of chances they were generating. And cash in they did, with Nick Bonino depositing yet another rebound on a power play before setting up Matt Beleskey for a marker that would give the Ducks a 4-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
But Anaheim wasn't done there. A little over a minute into the third, Corey Perry picked off a weak backhand pass from Joe Thornton and sent Ryan Getzlaf in on a partial breakaway that the Ducks captain buried high blocker on Antti Niemi, chasing the Sharks goalie from the net. A comedy of errors on a Sharks power play gave Anaheim a clean 3-on-0 from the red line in and led to a shortie from Andrew Cogliano and a 6-2 Ducks lead.
It's true that a lot of this loss can be hung on the slew of injuries San Jose has sustained, forcing them to ice a bottom six tonight that featured three AHLers. The third and fourth lines were awful, on the ice for three of Anaheim's four even-strength goals against and spending the time in which they weren't getting scored on hemmed in their own end. But the Sharks also needed a better showing from their top two lines, particularly in that second period when everything went haywire, and they didn't exactly get it, certainly not from their top line as Joe Thornton had one of his weaker efforts of the season. It all added up to a thoroughly disappointing finish to what had otherwise been a good year for San Jose.
- The ice was literally tilted in this game. The team shooting at the net the Sharks attacked twice outshot the other by a combined total of 53-21.
- Bracken Kearns was the only bottom-six forward for the Sharks in this one who was even halfway decent (which probably says more about the bottom six San Jose is forced to ice right now than it does about Kearns) so it was nice to see him rewarded with his second goal in as many games.
- They did give up a shorthanded goal but the power play might have been the one positive for the Sharks in an otherwise dreadful game. The usual top unit was reunited and they looked better than ever, generating an impressive 18 shot attempts in a little under 7 minutes of 5-on-4 time.
- Definitely a bummer of a way to kick it off but hopefully everyone still manages to have an enjoyable night. Happy New Year!
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Ryan Getzlaf
2nd Star: Cam Fowler
3rd Star: Jonas Hiller