There might not be a team in the league more difficult to pin down than the Sharks. Days after being trounced on home ice by the lowly New Jersey Devils, San Jose stormed out of the gate and wore down the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, ultimately holding on for a 4-2 win in one of their most complete efforts of the season. And so a multi-season, largely inexplicable trend of the Sharks playing their best games against the best teams and their worst against the weakest continues but it's hard to complain on a night like this as San Jose ends their pre-All-Star break schedule on a high note with a huge divisional victory.
Patrick Marleau scored his second goal in twenty games and set up Joe Pavelski's ninth in fourteen, both of which came with Drew Doughty in the penalty box. Logan Couture bookended the scoring for the Sharks, driving wide on Alec Martinez before cutting to the net and slipping one past Jonathan Quick midway through the first period then being awarded with a goal despite missing the net for the third time after being hooked while Quick pulled for an extra attacker late.
With the exception of the team's scarcely-used fourth line, the Sharks got contributions from all over their lineup. In Tommy Wingels' absence, Matt Nieto added an element of speed and transition offense to the Couture line that proved to be a huge boon against L.A. in the first four games of last spring's playoff series. Tomas Hertl, on the wing tonight after a stint at center, continued to be dominant down low in the offensive zone while working in tandem with Tyler Kennedy. And despite a pair of undisciplined penalties, Brenden Dillon had a nice bounceback game paired with Matt Tennyson, denying what would have been a golden scoring opportunity for Marian Gaborik early on and making consistent outlet passes out of the defensive zone. Even including the 4-0 win on banner night in L.A., this was probably the best the Sharks have looked against the Kings since Game 2 last April. The fact that they accomplished without Wingels, who scored twice in the aforementioned season opener, and Justin Braun makes it all the more impressive and encouraging.
- In fairness to Los Angeles, they're certainly dealing with their share of injury issues as well. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson were out of the lineup while Dustin Brown and Mike Richards are basically useless now.
- John Scott doesn't fight anyone, plays hockey at a beer league level, takes stupid penalties and isn't even trusted by his coach to take the ice long enough to respond to something like Drew Doughty's late-game shenanigans tonight. Good thing he's on the roster!
- Tyler Kennedy continues to be an unsung hero for the Sharks and it was hard not to wonder how much he could have helped them against the Kings last spring when he was scratched for all seven games of that playoff series. He seems to win just about every puck battle he's engaged in, even against some of the Kings' biggest defensemen. That line didn't get rewarded with a goal but they were buzzing in the offensive zone all game largely thanks to Kennedy's board work and speed through the neutral zone.
- Your occasional reminder that Jonathan Quick has a .910 SV% in the regular season since 2012. There isn't a player in the NHL with a wider gap between reputation and ability.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: Logan Couture
2nd Star: Patrick Marleau
3rd Star: Joe Pavelski