Brenden Dillon's first game as a San Jose Shark after being acquired in a trade with Dallas came on November 22nd against the Arizona Coyotes. It wasn't the smoothest of debuts as Dillon was caught on the ice for a goal by Arizona's David Schlemko in the first period before inadvertently kicking a puck past Antti Niemi less than a minute into the third period to give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead en route to an eventual shootout victory.
He'll assuredly have much fonder memories of his second career Sharks-Coyotes tilt. Dillon's sixty-foot floater from the point five minutes into the third period broke a 2-2 deadlock and held up as the game winner as the Sharks ended their January road slate on a high note, notching an important road win prior to a seven-game homestand. Tomas Hertl, centering a dominant new-look fourth line, and Joe Pavelski, via a seeing-eye shot on the power play, scored the other Sharks goals and Antti Niemi stopped 27 of 29 Coyotes shots as San Jose moved back into second place in the Pacific Division.
- That was one of Hertl's best games this season and it probably isn't a coincidence that it came with A) Tyler Kennedy, back in the lineup after a five-week stint on injured reserve, on his wing as the underrated forward is usually nitrous in the engine of any line he's put on and B) Hertl playing center, his natural position.
- Hertl is more than just a sniper; he's a distributor and thrives when he's able to touch the puck as much as possible. That can't really happen (for good reason) when he's on Joe Thornton's wing and while there are myriad other benefits to playing with one of the best players in the NHL, it might be best for Hertl's overall development to continue playing him in the middle.
- It was just one game, and perhaps it'll be a bust of an experiment long term, but if this season really is about looking towards the future, giving your 21-year-old future star a spin at his natural position seems to serve that goal. Regardless, it was nice to have a fourth line capable of dominating possession and contributing to the offense rather than providing dubious "energy" and getting their teeth kicked in territorially.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson is really, really good at hockey.
- Despite setting up the Dillon goal, the Sharks' most disappointing line was probably Couture-Pavelski-Karlsson who rarely got anything going in the offensive zone and finished with just three even-strength shots among them while yielding several grade-A chances, including the Shane Done goal, to Arizona. Despite Karlsson scoring in St. Louis, that line simply hasn't been effective in its three games together.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Antti Niemi
2nd Star: Tomas Hertl
3rd Star: Brent Burns