The San Jose Sharks have been saying all offseason that they wanted to get out of the blocks fast.
Setting a record for goals scored in a season opener is a pretty decent start.
The Sharks got goals from every line tonight, with Joe Pavelski and rookie Andrew Desjardins picking up two-a-piece. Newcomer Michael Handzus also had a goal, as did Ryane Clowe when he scored on a beautiful top-shelf backhander.
"Overall it was a great start," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. "I thought everybody played well, had their legs, and fed off the energy from the building tonight. I think once we got the first couple goals early we kind of sensed that they were deflated. Everybody is still learning so we can still get better, but it was a good first game."
It was indeed a great first night for the Sharks, who appeared to be at the top of their game from the drop of the puck. Granted, they took the ice against a Phoenix team who looked like they would be on the losing end of more games than not this year. Still, the Sharks were efficient, precise and lethal with their opportunities.
San Jose's first line truly excelled, as it appeared they did whatever they pleased against the Coyotes. Thornton, Pavelski and Patrick Marleau cycled the puck in a fashion reminiscent of what we saw with Vancouver's top unit in last years Western Conference Finals; the line was completing crisp passes and beating the opposition to the puck all night.
"We've been working on it throughout training camp, just kind of finding where each other are going to be. Just jumping into open holes, we're all pretty smart players so we can read off each other really well," Thornton said.
Tonight, Pavelski was the beneficiary of his line's dominance, as he cashed in twice against Mike Smith. Both of his goals came on the power play, and as has been the case in years past, a strong power play looks like it will be one of San Jose's staples this season.
"We knew from past seasons that [the power play] can set the tone of the game. You either gain momentum off it or you lose it, and we are able to have some success. It fed right into our game tonight," Pavelski said. "As a forward you always like being down around the net, and those situations there. It was a great pass [from Patty on the first goal], I saw it right at the end there and it just hit my stick."
While Pavelski may not score every night, the first line is loaded with so much talent that one of the three forwards should be finding twine regularly.
The stars weren't the only ones who shined, as lines three and four combined for three goals of their own on the evening. Desjardins showed a good deal of the moxie we've been talking about, especially in the moments leading up to his second goal. After receiving a brutal cross check in the back, Desjardins went into the boards and down to the ice. With the puck still close, he collected himself and with a few strides to the net, he chucked a shot at Smith that found it's way through the five-hole. It was a good night for Desjardins, but even when beat writer David Pollak pointed out that the rookie was on pace for 164 goals, Desjardins laughed it off and tried his best to stay grounded.
"You just have to take one shift at a time. I'm just trying to do my job and when you work like that good things will happen," laughed Desjardins. "If you would have said that [I'd be on pace to score 164] at the beginning of the game I would have been probably been laughing at you [laughs], but I'm just ready to build on it this week again."
Michael Handzus also had a strong game, drawing two early penalties and scoring on a wraparound goal. His line, made up of Torrey Mitchell and Jamie McGinn, had long stretches of possession in the Phoenix zone and just missed on a few additional chances. Mitchell looked like he regained some of his speed in the offseason, while McGinn played an almost mistake free game with flashes of the talent he's kept hidden.
Coach Todd McLellan was happy with his squad's effort, and complimented his teams preparedness for their first tilt of the year.
"I thought all four lines contributed. They hit the scoreboard, obviously Desi and the rest of the group. They contributed along the boards, they had some speed and tenacity to their game," said the coach. "I felt comfortable putting them on the ice," McLellan said. Our three and a half weeks of training camp showed up during the game. The Marleau's and Thornton's understand the way we want to play. It was great to see the White's and the Burns' pick it up as well."
However, the night wasn't perfect, as the Sharks let the game get away from them a bit in the final frame. Leading 6-1, San Jose got into the habit of taking penalties and played much of the final frame shorthanded. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan picked up tallies in the third with their team on the advantage in the third, and when you add in Doan's first period score as well, the Sharks end the night with a dismal 50% showing on the penalty kill.
Burns, in his first game as a Shark, picked up an assist and showcased his signature bomb from the point. However, he also displayed some of the defensive miscues he's been known to commit in the past, mistakes that will have more of an affect against better teams.
However, with almost a week off, Burns and the Sharks will have a chance to address the subtle tweaks needed to improve. In general, this game was one of huge positives and gives the team a good feeling and plenty of time to get rested and ready before they face off against Anaheim for fame two.
After a game like tonight, though, who wants to wait?