Torres Trolls, Tiburones Tops Titleholders (In Shootout)

Roll Tide, Raffi Torres. Roll Tide. - USA TODAY Sports

Sharks and Kings battle in a potential playoff preview, only to end in a manner not allowed in the playoffs, thank goodness.

Tonight, anything could have happened. The Sharks were coming off a back-to-back, the Kings were rested, and things were all topsy-turvy with the Sharks wearing road whites at home.* The Sharks were coming off two pretty dominating performances, even if one failed to result in any points. The question was whether the Sharks could continue their strong play, or if they were going to revert to Columbus mode.

*For those who didn't hear, the Kings originally planned to wear their awesome purple and gold throwbacks, but have decided to never wear them again so instead wore their boring black home sweaters.

Well, it turned out to be neither. The Kings outshot the Sharks every single period including overtime, and outplayed them as well. It was not a total domination by the defending champions, but the ice was slightly tilted towards Antti Niemi all night. Above all, it was a playoff-like atmosphere; it was as if the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals series was continuing tonight. That is, there was no love lost between the teams.

The first saw the two teams settle into the game as giveaways and takeaways happened faster than the official scorer could record. What didn't take much time to establish was the mutual dislike between teams; there was pushing and shoving between players after every whistle, and more than once players from scrums were sent to the box. As has been a trend in the NHL, nobody actually dropped the gloves, but there were a handful of well-deserved roughing penalties.

The Sharks were the sole beneficiary of a power play in the first period, although it was rather powerless. No shots, and very little zone time; without on-screen scoreboard, you could hardly tell the Sharks were even on a man advantage.

No score until the second period, at which point all the scoring happened. The Sharks got out to a quick 2-0 lead off goals from Brent Burns and T.J. Galiardi, scored just 42 seconds apart. Cue the obligatory "BEAT LA" chant.

That was not to last, however, as Galiardi and Demers took two well-deserved penalties to put the Sharks on a two man disadvantage for just over a minute. Niemi and the penalty killers stood strong, and killed the 5-on-3 with some excellent saves. But then Jake Muzzin of the Kings scored during the remainder of Demers' penalty.

As two goal leads are the most dangerous lead in hockey, Dustin Brown scores minutes after Muzzin, whacking in an Anze Kopitar-generated rebound. So despite the four goals, the second ended as the first did: tied.

Not much really happened in the third period, so I'd like to take a moment to appreciate Antti Niemi. He was Vezina worthy. Niemi faced 43 shots on the second half of a back-to-back and still made some spectacular saves. No way the Sharks would have been in the position to come away with two points tonight if it wasn't for Niemi.

Onto the shootout, everyone's favorite part of all NHL contests. First four shooters fail to score, although Dan Boyle has what can only be described as an amusing attempt. Then comes Raffi Torres, a still divisive figure among Sharks fans. And of course he scores. And of course that's the only goal in the shootout, giving the Sharks the win.

Oh, Raffi Torres.

  • Unfortunately, my lack of cable and the Gamecenter Live blackout restrictions led to a less-than-ideal way of watching the game, and all I could see were black and white blurs in place of players. So not much hard-hitting player analysis. Or gifs.
  • Which means I'll reserve judgment for Scott Hannan later, when I can tell which blur he was. I don't remember hearing his name called during the play-by-play much, except for a bad giveaway late in the game. Take that as you will.
  • That said, Brent Burns has 6 points in 3 games against the Kings this season, all of which came while he's played at forward. I know we keep reiterating this - and by we, I mean all Sharks writers everywhere - but the Brent Burns at forward experiment is a resounding success. His unique combination of size, skating ability, and shot puts him into the role of power forward.
  • Speaking of power forwards, for a couple years, Ryane Clowe was the definition of one. Tommy Wingels definitely looks like an early iteration of a more defensively-responsible Ryane Clowe. If Wingels can aim just a little better (which is a high order for some players coughEhrhoffcough), I can see him get 20 goals a season easy.
  • Back to Burns - the line of Galiardi-Thornton-Burns has quickly become one of my favorites. Thornton's love of passing the puck works extremely well with Galiardi's reckless abandon and Burns's new-found power forward status. That, and both Galiardi and Burns prefer to shoot the puck as soon as they get it, which is a revelation in the pass-first system the Sharks play. If you were to tell me before the season that one of the best lines for the Sharks is made of Joe Thornton, TJ Galiardi, and Brent Burns, I would have wondered what happened to devastate the rest of the roster and how close we were to the basement. Hockey!
  • Also: Raffi Torres, valuable hockey contributor to the San Jose Sharks. Still can't quite believe it.
  • Joe Thornton's assist on T.J. Galiardi's goal was his 500th in teal and 785th overall. He is now tied with Mats Sundin on the all-time list.
  • Final thought of the night belongs to Antti Niemi. That thought is, "Wow."

FTF Three Stars

1st Star: Antti Niemi

2nd Star: Brent Burns
3rd Star: Jonathan Quick

Honorary 4th Star goes to TJ Galiardi, because there needs to be some difference between FTF's three stars and the official ones.

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