Beating up on the unmitigated trainwreck that is the Edmonton Oilers always feels a tad mean-spirited. It's the old adage about stealing candy from a baby, only there are like four babies and three of them are former first overall picks. At any rate, the two points the Sharks picked up courtesy their 5-1 rout of the Oil tonight count just the same as the two points they fought tooth and nail for in, say, their shootout win over Los Angeles in November. And that's a good thing, since it moves them ever closer to first-place Anaheim in the Pacific Division standings.
San Jose showed no mercy in putting away the worst team in the Western Conference, picking apart the weak Edmonton blueline, capitalizing on costly Oiler turnovers and firing five pucks past the struggling Devan Dubnyk for a pleasant bounce-back win following their 6-3 drubbing at the hands of the Ducks on Tuesday. Antti Niemi did well to fend off an Edmonton siege on an early power play but it was all Sharks for essentially the remainder of the game as they outshot the Oilers 36-24 and outchanced them by an even steeper margin.
Brent Burns got the Sharks on the board late in the first period, cashing in on a Joe Pavelski pass through the slot on what was the fourth or fifth dominant shift by that line as they chewed up and spit out the Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Perron combination all night long. Less than a minute later, Patrick Marleau stripped the puck from Nail Yakupov on the half-wall and beat Dubnyk with a floater. Feel-good story of the year Bracken Kearns continued his unlikely scoring streak with a goal in his third straight game since being recalled from Worcester. Logan Couture added his third goal in three games as well and it was game over less than halfway through the contest.
Again, it's difficult to read too much into a win against a team like the Oilers but this was certainly one of the Sharks' more complete efforts of the season so far. The top line was dominant beyond words, an injury-decimated third line was able to chip in with secondary scoring and Antti Niemi stood tall when he needed to during two rather-sloppy San Jose penalty kills. More difficult tests await the Sharks in their back-to-back sequence this weekend against the Avalanche and Blackhawks but, for now, they can find some solace in thoroughly handling the Oilers even without the services of four top-nine wingers.
- Picking up his 40th and 41st helpers of the season tonight, Joe Thornton is now on pace for 82 assists. That would be more than any NHL player has managed in a single season since Henrik Sedin put up 84 in 2009-10 and it would be the highest total of Jumbo's career since he had 92 in 2006-07.
- This was easily the worst game I've ever seen Taylor Hall, who's a fantastic hockey player and definitely not the problem in Edmonton, play. San Jose outshot the Oilers (including misses and blocks) 19-3 when he was on the ice at even-strength although, in his defense, Todd McLellan hard-matched the Thornton line against Hall's.
- Brad Stuart was a healthy scratch tonight in favor of Scott Hannan and boy did Hannan look far better alongside Jason Demers than Stuart has in weeks. Granted, it's the Oilers but Hannan/Demers was an effective third pairing for the Sharks early in the season when Stuart was dealing with injury and suspension. I'd like to see them remain together.
- A more questionable roster decision was scratching Tyler Kennedy who had a rough night in Anaheim but is surely a better option than John McCarthy, Mike Brown or Freddie Hamilton. I'm guessing it was more of a "message-sending" scratch than an indictment of his talent level and hopefully he'll be back in the lineup in Colorado on Saturday.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Joe Pavelski
2nd Star: Joe Thornton
3rd Star: Brent Burns