Despite their recent struggles, despite their insertion of Mike Brown and John Scott into the lineup and promotion of Tye McGinn to the first line and despite the fact that they were facing a high-powered Anaheim Ducks team, it was a foregone conclusion the Sharks were going to win tonight's game. It's just the way they roll. Following disappointing losses to clearly inferior clubs like Buffalo, Florida, Arizona and Calgary up with a big win over Anaheim is, inexplicably, what we've come to expect from San Jose over the past season and change.
We've also come to expect that no lead is safe and the Sharks delivered on both promises in an exciting 6-4 win, complete with a nail-biter third period, that ended their four-game losing streak. Logan Couture, too sick to attend the morning skate, scored twice, Tommy Wingels registered a career-high four points and Tomas Hertl had one of his best games of the season with a pretty goal and five shots as San Jose built a 5-1 second period lead before giving up two goals to Kings Mumps himself and another to Ryan Getzlaf to make things rather interesting.
Ugly finish aside, improving to 2-0 against the Ducks with both wins coming in regulation is key as the Sharks try to crawl out of this hole they've dug for themselves in the Pacific Division race. And while the third period pseudo-collapse will get most of the attention, the Sharks were full value for the 5-1 lead they staked themselves too; they had 20 more shot attempts than Anaheim when Hertl's backhander chased Frederik Andersen from the net. Again, the biggest question with this team is why they can't seem to play this well against inferior opponents.
- Something the Sharks have been doing on nearly every offensive-zone faceoff at even-strength this season is lining their defensemen up on their off sides with the rightie on each pairing starting on the left and vice versa. It paid off in a big way on Wingels' goal as Justin Braun was able to easily set up Patrick Marleau for the one-timer.
- They didn't get a ton of ice time in the third period as the Sharks tried to protect the lead but Hertl, James Sheppard and Matt Nieto were largely excellent together. On the other side of the ledger, Tye McGinn playing with Thornton and Pavelski just didn't work at all. I can't understand what Todd McLellan sees in McGinn; he isn't a good skater, he can't score, he doesn't set up chances, he's a terrible possession player and he isn't even physical. He's certainly a better fourth-line option than guys like Scott and Brown (it's hard not to be) but McGinn doesn't deserve to be in the lineup over Barclay Goodrow.
- If the Ducks had tied the game on Brown's third minor penalty of the night (in less than eight minutes of ice time!) it's hard to say the Sharks coaching staff and management wouldn't have richly deserved the resulting humiliation. I guess they're going to continue to pretend Brown is a real NHL player and not a crappier version of Adam Burish. We'll see how long it lasts.
- I was hoping Brent Burns and Brenden Dillon would be a functional pairing, and maybe they still will be, but it's hard to ignore that both defensemen (but mostly Burns) getting lured out of position led to both the Matt Belskey and first Corey Perry goals in this game. On the Perry goal especially Burns allowed way too generous of a defensive gap despite plenty of time to anticipate the developing play. If they're really this dead-set on him playing defense, at least give him Vlasic as a partner while Dillon should see his game improve as well alongside Braun.
- It would have been pretty infuriating if it had happened to the Sharks but Dennis LaRue running a pick on Josh Manson to allow Tommy Wingels a cleaner breakaway followed by the other referee Dean Morton calling a phantom penalty on Manson to effectively end the game was hilarious. Couldn't have happened to a nicer team.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Tommy Wingels
2nd Star: Dickhead Von Diarrheapants
3rd Star: Logan Couture