This was One Of Those Games, plain and simple. One of those games where the Sharks executed their forecheck perfectly, hemmed the opposition in their own end for pretty much the entire sixty minutes, generated shots and chances by the bushel and yet still managed to lose thanks to the opposing goaltender, the pipes behind him and various acts of god. It was also one of those games where you could feel their opponent caving in as the third period progressed and if the Sharks could just buy a little more time they'd eventually be able to tie it up.
One-tenth of a second, to be precise, was exactly the amount of extra time they ended up needing. Joe Thornton cashed in a Tommy Wingels centering pass one tick of the clock past the buzzer; the would-be tying goal was waved off and the Sharks dropped their first meeting of the season with the Canucks despite registering 74 shot attempts to Vancouver's 23.
Here's tonight's Corsi timeline, completely unedited. pic.twitter.com/lNsQugCAGv— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) November 7, 2014
Sure, many of those attempts were from distance, but after storming out of the gate with five quality chances in the opening minute the Sharks had more than their fair share of looks offensively. Unfortunately, they missed the net on many of them and couldn't beat new Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller when they hit the target. On the defensive side of things, an ill-advised offensive gamble by Scott Hannan with fifteen seconds remaining in the first period led to a 2-on-1 that Radim Vrbata cashed in through Antti Niemi's seven-hole. Alex Edler beat Niemi from long range with a point blast on the power play and Nick Bonino's winner came on a brutally unlucky sequence where Tomas Hertl broke his stick. It's hard to fault Niemi entirely for this loss but after a string of great performances, he was clearly the lesser of the two goalies on the ice tonight.
Still, the Sharks opened their season piling up some rather undeserved victories before embarking on a four-game losing streak. Win or lose, they were getting uncharacteristically outplayed on a regular basis. As tough as One Of Those Games like tonight can be to stomach, it's unequivocally a good sign that the Sharks are getting back to performances like this where they show they're capable of carrying play against a tough opponent. If they keep playing like they did tonight, the Sharks won't run of time to secure a victory very often.
- This wasn't quite a perfect game for the Sharks in all aspects but as far as executing their offensive-zone forecheck is concerned, this is the kind of game Todd McLellan is going to want to preserve tape of for when the Sharks stray from his system.
- San Jose's strong-side defensemen were pinching so aggressively early on that they could afford to back off a bit as the game progressed and watch Canucks wingers panic and turn the puck over on breakouts simply due to the expectation that a Sharks blueliner was going to bear down on them. Seemingly every time a Vancouver player touched the puck tonight, they were forced to turn it over seconds later.
- Hear me out on this: Tyler Kennedy is a really useful player in this lineup. McLellan mentioned after the game he thought Kennedy's tenacity rubbed off on Tomas Hertl and James Sheppard and it's tough to dispute that; this was easily one of Hertl's best games of the season and it was largely because he spent much of it down low, where he's a handful for any defenseman. A lot of that is thanks to Kennedy's speed transitioning the puck and subsequent skills on the cycle.
- Brent Burns posted some spectacular underlying numbers in this one but I'm not sure they're all that reflective of his play. He was forcing bad passes all over the ice, although he was admittedly his usual dominant self inside the Vancouver blueline. To a large extent, I thought Mirco Mueller carried the mail for this pairing which is a nice change of pace.
- Matt Nieto's speed was causing all sorts of problems for the Canucks defense, particularly Kevin Bieksa. I'm not sure why McLellan swapped him and Logan Couture (who didn't have the greatest game, despite a gorgeous between-the-legs power play goal) late in the third period. Both teams looked gassed by that point but Nieto continued to create with his wheels; that might have resulted in something with Thornton and Pavelski as his linemates.
- When you hold the Sedin twins to just six even-strength shot attempts between them and newly-minted Third Sedin Radim Vrbata, you know you've played a good game against the Canucks. Granted, one of those six was Vrbata's 2-on-1 goal.
- Speaking of that goal, why is Scott Hannan? Just...why? In a game where pretty much every Shark had a standout performance, Hannan and defense partner Jason Demers stood out for poor decision-making in all three zones. They've been bad all season and I'm not sure there's an in-house solution to it.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Ryan Miller
2nd Star: Tommy Wingels
3rd Star: Tyler Kennedy