In most respects, the Sharks looked much better tonight against the Arizona Coyotes than they did in the first game of their extended homestand on Thursday versus the Florida Panthers. Unfortunately for San Jose, that didn't lead to an improved outcome as the Sharks fell in a shootout for the second consecutive game with Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette beating Antti Niemi in the bottom of the third round.
Still, this was a much more inspiring effort by the Sharks than their previous three games as the team hopefully continues to take baby steps towards returning to a style of play that allows them to dictate the pace of most games. They launched a whopping 94 shot attempts at the Arizona net over the course of the game; if it weren't for a surprisingly solid performance by a rejuvenated Devan Dubnyk, particularly his saves on Joe Pavelski and James Sheppard in the final minute of regulation, the Sharks would have probably collected the two points. They enjoyed a terrific night from their bottom six, Patrick Marleau was flying all over the ice and registered six shots on goal and the power play, despite only converting once, was consistently dangerous.
It was the little mistakes defensively that ultimately did the Sharks in. A poor pass by Brent Burns in the neutral zone followed by a subsequent aimless slide into irrelevance during the resulting odd-man rush against allowed Mikkel Boedker to find a trailing David Schlemko to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead in the first period. After the Sharks rallied with goals from Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins to tie it, a failure by Tomas Hertl to catch a Burns pass on the breakout allowed Sam Gagner to set up Shane Doan for the go-ahead marker less than a minute into the third period. Those details cost the Sharks this game but if they're able to control play and manufacture offensive chances at the rate that they did tonight more often they should be able to break out of this slump.
- Barclay Goodrow played what was easily his best game as a Shark in this one, even beyond forcing an Oliver Ekman-Larsson turnover at the point before streaking down the wing to set up Tommy Wingels for a shorthanded goal. His speed was frequently the catalyst for some of the third line's best shifts and that trio was probably the team's most consistent tonight. He ended up botching his shootout attempt but it was nice to see him get rewarded with the opportunity after a great performance.
- Obviously the big story heading into this one was Brenden Dillon's debut in teal and it's probably safe to say it was a bit of a mixed bag. Dillon's excellent skating and puck-moving ability was on display all night; it's nice to have a defenseman with the confidence and skill level to skate the puck out of the defensive end by himself rather than deferring to the coaching staff's stretch-pass-leading-to-a-dump-in method of zone exits. At the same time, he had some issues when trying to cover for Burns' mistakes and the Doan goal appeared to partially go off Dillon's skate and in as he got crossed up with Antti Niemi.
- It's been 23 games. At some point you have to accept that what you're seeing is what you're gonna get with Burns on defense, right? What I'm seeing is a player who lacks some of the skills most vital to the position; Burns' awareness without the puck has been severely lacking but more concerning might be the fact that his passing ability with the puck is arguably even worse. For a "puck-moving defenseman" Burns really isn't all that good at making tape-to-tape breakout passes, as was evident on both goals against (even if Hertl probably should have been able to handle the second one). Now that the Sharks are no longer shooting 13% or whatever it was with Burns on the ice, it's become pretty obvious that one of the most dominant power forwards in the league is being wasted as a mediocre defenseman.
- If you're looking for positives going forward, the Sharks are 3-4-4 in one-goal games, good for the second-worst winning percentage in those games in the league. How the hell is that a positive? Teams' records in one-goal games tend to regress pretty heavily to the mean over the long run so the Sharks can probably expect to start winning more of these close games over the remainder of the season.
- I have no idea what's going on with Tomas Hertl at this point. He's having trouble with plays as basic as picking up pucks off the wall in both the defensive and offensive zones so it probably shouldn't be a surprise that he had yet another shot-less game, despite playing with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. He was benched for the final five minutes of regulation and all of overtime (in addition to losing his spot on the second power play unit) and it's hard to disagree with that decision. Whether it's an injury or a different issue, something is very clearly wrong here and has been for most of the season.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Devan Dubnyk
2nd Star: Shane Doan
3rd Star: Barclay Goodrow