Let's get this out of the way early: Nashville is a very good team. The Sharks lost 2-1 last night at SAP Center to a Predators team that is now 7-1-1. The Sharks played well, but there are certainly parts of their game they'll need to work on. First and foremost, they'll need to get the power play scoring again.
"They're a good team, I thought we played them pretty hard all over the ice," Tommy Wingels said. "We definitely had some opportunities to win the special teams game, but we didn't. That's obviously an area we need to improve on if we want to string some wins together."
Both teams finished 0 for 2 on the power play. This leaves the Sharks without a power play goal in their last 13 opportunities, and drops their season power play percentage to 11.1%. "Obviously, we need to start scoring there for sure. We had some good looks again," head coach Peter DeBoer said. "Eventually something's gotta go in." This was very true for the first power play unit, but the second unit seemed to have trouble even entering the zone at times.
The Predators took the lead in the first period against that pairing on a rush up the ice. Paul Gaustad found Roman Josi streaking into the offensive zone with some support. Josi came up the left-side, and passed it ahead to Eric Nystrom. The timing had to be perfect for Nystrom to connect on a one-timer coming from behind him, and it was.
"They do a little different neutral zone play than what we're used to," Paul Martin said. "Especially on the set breakouts - which I think it took us a while to adjust to - that allows them to get some speed coming up through the neutral zone."
For the very first time this season (and technically ever), the Burns-Martin pairing was scored on at 5 on 5. That pairing just did not run as smooth as we had seen earlier this year. Martin finished with a 38.89% Corsi, while Burns had a 43.9%.
Tommy Wingels established his physical game early. He had a big check that rocked Barrett Jackman. Jackman seemed to be thrown off his game a bit after and was looking for a fight all night after that. He immediately tried to start something with Wingels after the hit, but Wingels didn't buy in. The Sharks got a powerplay out it, and maybe more importantly, the penalty ended a 3 on 2 going the other way. However, that was the high point for the third line of Wingels, Matt Nieto and Chris Tierney. Tierney's Corsi at evens was an especially bad 32%. It may be time for the line blender to come out. These are three talented players, but the results suggest they don't mesh well together.
The top line, meanwhile, looked very strong. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski were their usual dominant selves, while Joonas Donskoi returned to his spot in the lineup after missing a few games and looked like he never left. Donskoi was moving quick, and showed off his stick-handling skills multiple times in the night.
The Sharks were able to tie the game early in the third period. After getting cross-checked in the back by Shea Weber, Joe Pavelski stood back up and stayed in the low slot, where he cashed in on a rare rebound from Pekka Rinne. Pavelski said the Sharks needed more opportunies like that against a goalie as strong as Rinne. "You saw how the goal went in, its a rebound with four or five guys there," Pavelski said. "That's how you've got to score a lot of goals." Unfortunately, the Sharks weren't able to keep up that strategy.
The Predators owned the puck after Pavelski's goal. It was only a matter of time before they regained the lead. Eventually, Seth Jones stripped the puck from Chris Tierney and fired the puck up the ice for a 2-on-1 with Gabriel Borque and Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok would find the back of the net to give Nashville the lead. "It wasn't a bad pinch," DeBoer said. "It ended up being a 2-on-2 at the top of the circle, and the guy shot it and it went off the shaft of our defenseman's (Matt Tennyson) stick and straight up."
Martin Jones was a little tougher on himself. "A couple of soft goals was probably the difference tonight," Jones said. "I don't think good saves makes up for bad goals." Again, Jones still only let up 2 goals in the game. Coming into the night, his season stats were even better than Rinne's. That's a high bar.
Hopefully the Sharks can improve in the other areas they need to, and cash in on a few power play chances, because whether Jones thinks the goals were soft or not, his goals against average can't realistically get too much better.