The way the puck was bouncing tonight, you would have thought the Sharks were playing at Joe Louis Arena.
However, the Sharks didn't completely rely on flukey bounces to crush their opposition tonight, as they rode a hot Joe Thornton to a decisive win against the now 2-7-1 New Jersey Devils.
Thornton, the team's newly anointed captain, had his first hat trick since 2008 (only the fourth in his career and his second with San Jose) and led his team to their first home victory of the 2010-2011 season. Only one of his three goals was scored on the power play, an encouraging sign for a team that had only scored eight even strength goals before tonight's match.
Jumbo Joe also added two assists, contributing to every goal scored on the evening against Martin Brodeur. Thornton's five points matched a career high.
As you would assume with Thornton's point total, the Sharks' "big three" played the biggest part in the team's victory (Both Marleau and Heatley notched even strength goals in the tilt). While that's not exactly what Coach Todd McLellan would like to see in regards to a balanced scoring attack, it's nice to know that the Sharks' stars can carry the team to victory when need be.
Granted, the Devils aren't the most intimidating team in North America right now; an offseason of uncertainty surrounding Ilya Kovalchuck's contract status seems to be affecting the team on the ice this season. Still, especially for a Sharks team which is still finding it's feet in 2010-2011, every decisive win matters.
Aside from the top line racking up the points, there were other positives to the game which point to a steadily improving San Jose squad. First and foremost, the Sharks were the first to most pucks in all zones. This commitment to puck possession showed up all game, and it's a big reason that the team was able to put such a hurting on a reeling Devils team.
In addition, the Sharks third line of McGinn, Couture and Mitchell looked solid yet again, flying around the ice and controlling play in their offensive zone. If this line continues to contribute in terms of energy, they are going to set a real tone for the season, even if they don't show up on the scoreboard.
Speaking of not showing up on the board, Devin Setoguchi was held without a point for the fifth consecutive game. However, I'm going to put his play in the positive column; besides ringing a shot off the mask of Brodeur, he was a force for most of the game in both ends. If he fights the discouragement of his statistical disappointing season thus far and continues to work (something he had trouble with last year), the points are going to come. He's too good to remain silent for long.
The last positive? Antero Niittymaki. He was impressive again in net, letting just one in on a fluke bounce and the other shorthanded, showing why he was so highly touted by the organization during the free agent frenzy this off season.
Again, the Devils aren't scaring anyone right now. But a 5-2 win is always a good thing, even if balance was lacking in the scoring department. The Sharks will look to continue their newfound success at home against Anaheim on Saturday, and if the team keeps playing like they did tonight, it's hard to expect anything less than that. Success.