For the second time this season the Sharks were trailing by a goal in the latter stages of a road game when they were handed a gift from the hockey gods: their opponent was whistled for a high-sticking double minor resulting in a four-minute San Jose power play. They couldn't capitalize in Boston on October 21st and they failed to tie the game on an extended man-advantage tonight as well, losing 2-1 to the Blue Jackets.
While that final listless power play, embodied by a no-look backhand pass by Brent Burns from the point that completely missed Logan Couture to seriously derail things, sealed the Sharks' fate in this one, they weren't as bad throughout as those four minutes indicated. Facing a tired Blue Jackets squad that played last night in Philadelphia, the Sharks spent the vast majority of the game's even-strength minutes in Columbus territory. Unfortunately they didn't generate as many grade-A scoring opportunities as you'd like to see given that degree of zone time and the ones they did create were smothered by Sergei Bobrovsky in his return to the Blue Jackets lineup.
Still, it's hard to fault the Sharks' effort in this game especially when it seemed at times that they were combating not only the Blue Jackets but some severely compromised Nationwide Arena ice. Multiple Sharks forwards tripped over the blueline while routine passes by both teams were frequently bouncing over sticks or taking on unexpected trajectories, like a feed from Logan Couture to Patrick Marleau at the right point in the dying seconds that skittered out into the neutral zone. Usually when you control 70% of the five-on-five shot attempts in a game (granted, it's less impressive of a feat against a tired, injury-riddled Jackets side) you have a good chance to win. An inability to connect on passes into the slot, some brilliant saves by Bobrovsky and, ultimately, failing to capitalize on that four-minute power play led to the Sharks falling short.
- Todd McLellan's reluctance to pull Antti Niemi until there were mere seconds left on the four-minute power play and the useless second unit was on the ice puzzled me. Second-chance opportunities were in short supply for the Sharks all game long but particularly on that four-minute advantage; another forward circling the crease would have helped quite a bit.
- The importance of faceoffs, at least in the aggregate rather than specific key draws, can be vastly overstated and this game is a pretty good example of that. Columbus won nearly 60% of draws in all situations while the Sharks controlled 70% of shot attempts. Puck possession is extremely important but it should be gauged by the metrics that closely approximate it; faceoff percentage is not one of those.
- When Marc-Edouard Vlasic was on the ice at even-strength the Sharks out-attempted the Jackets 27-3. He's pretty good.
- This was probably one of Tomas Hertl's better games of the season, spent bouncing between the first and third lines. His power move in fending off Jack Johnson on the forecheck before cutting to the net with a backhander that resulted in two subsequent scoring chances was reminiscent of what he was accomplishing on a regular basis last season. More of that please.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Sergei Bobrovsky
2nd Star: Cam Atkinson
3rd Star: Tommy Wingels