It was the best of times, it was the worst of times but, most of all, it was the preseason-iest of times as the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks kicked off their exhibition schedules with two equally meaningless games in two separate locations all at the same time. In British Columbia, the Sharks fell 4-2 to the Canucks before avenging that defeat a little more than hour later with a 5-2 win over Vancouver in Stockton.
However, the games probably weren't quite as even as the scores indicated as San Jose outshot Vancouver by a combined 68-31 margin, including a lopsided 34-12 count at Stockton Arena. There, 18-year-old Nikolay Goldobin was reportedly the standout as he set up Barclay Goodrow for a power play goal then scored one himself on a pretty wraparound. Joe "Clean Slate" Thornton also scored twice in a game the Sharks, by all accounts, dominated from start to finish. But since it wasn't broadcast anywhere I didn't watch it. Here are some observations from the 4-2 loss, which I did watch:
- It's never wise to put too much stock into a preseason game but I feel confident saying the Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Matt Nieto line is going to score approximately 250 goals this season. They weren't exactly drawing the stiffest of competition, mostly going up against Kellan Lain as both teams were content to just roll lines and not worry about matchups, but those three were flying all over the ice and creating an obscene amount of offense in every way imaginable. At least until Couture sat out the third period and they gave up the game-winning goal thanks to poor net-front coverage but still. They're awesome and Nieto looks every bit the impact player he was against the Kings in the playoffs. When he was on the ice at even-strength, the Sharks out-Corsi'd the Canucks by fourteen shot attempts.
- So, yeah, Couture sat out the third period. Todd McLellan informed the media in Vancouver after the game that it was merely a precautionary measure but with 2/3rds of the third line already injured on a team with little forward depth, this is going to be cause for some concern until Couture suits up again. He did sustain an awkward hip check near the end of the second period which was likely what did the damage. For the Canucks, Alex Edler left the game a little over two minutes in after taking a puck to the face. Preseason games might be meaningless but the injuries that occur in them are very real.
- Brent Burns understandably got a ton of minutes in this one as the coaching staff is still getting an idea of what he's capable of on the blueline after spending a season and a half up front. He was fine defensively but, unsurprisingly, handled the puck and was involved in the play a lot less frequently as a defenseman which isn't a positive for the Sharks given his skill level. Still, when he did get the chance he ripped a power play goal off the post and in with a filthy release.
- Speaking of minutes, Tommy Wingels probably deserves a crack at first-unit penalty killing duty this season after an absurdly successful shorthanded year alongside Logan Couture in 2013-14. He flashed some of that ability in this game, protecting the puck beneath the Canucks blueline to kill a good twenty seconds of a Vancouver man-advantage.
- Adam Burish and Mike Brown can't even look competent against a team of AHLers but you probably didn't need to watch this game to know that. Encouragingly, they were deployed as the fourth line on a team that included only half of the Sharks' camp roster so perhaps they've mercifully fallen out of favor with the coaching staff a tad.
- Jordan Subban has been largely written off due to his size but the parallels to his older brother are unmistakable. His first period goal that opened the scoring was a vintage P.K. blast from the point and his escape moves in the defensive zone and passing ability are also decidedly P.K.-esque. I wouldn't be surprised if Jordan makes it to the NHL at some point. He'll be a useful player when he gets there too.
- Small sample size and all that so I'm not putting much stock into it but I was a little disappointed by Freddie Hamilton's game after hoping to see some sign that he can be a capable third-line center if needed until James Sheppard returns to the lineup. Hamilton had some chemistry with Tyler Kennedy and that line racked up a solid shot differential but the play seemed to die on his stick in the offensive zone pretty frequently, whether it was an over-skated puck or a poor read on the cycle. Given Hamilton's track record as a high-end scorer in the OHL and a very impressive 22-year-old in the AHL I'm sure this was just a blip but I'm comfortable declaring the competition for the third-line center spot is still wide open.
- If you made it to the Stockton game, share your thoughts in the comments or a FanPost!