Depth scoring hasn’t been a strength of the 2015–16 Sharks, but it wasn’t a problem last night as six players scored goals and six more picked up assists in their most complete offensive showing of the season.
Of the 102 goals the Sharks scored in their first 38 games, 61 were scored by Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, and Joel Ward. Yesterday, that foursome accounted for only two of San Jose’s seven goals, as Matt Nieto, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, and Joonas Donskoi all broke out of lengthy scoring slumps to turn the game into a laugher.
Hertl, with two goals, matched his scoring output from the previous 34 games in less than 14 minutes. The 22-year-old forward is a huge part of the Sharks’ future, and he showed that he can be a huge part of the team this season, too. Hertl picked up an assist and was a +4 in addition to the two goals, and the Sharks controlled 77 percent of shot attempts when he was on the ice. Both his +19 Corsi and +14 Corsi at even strength led the team.
Donskoi, who had one goal in his prior 20 games, Nieto, with one in his prior 19, and Karlsson, with one in his prior 18, all posted goals to double their production over the last two months. Tommy Wingels, who had one goal and no assists in his 15 prior games, set up Nieto’s shortie by recognizing that the Leafs had left the puck unattended in their own end, and he picked up another assist on Donskoi’s goal. And Chris Tierney, who scored a goal and two assists in his three-game stint with the Barracuda, picked up the primary assist on Karlsson’s goal in his first game back with the NHL club. Those guys aren’t going to carry the Sharks most nights, but every one of them needed to show more production than he had. Any one of them building on last night’s game will give San Jose a much deeper lineup.
There’s one more slumping Shark who played a fantastic game last night: Martin Jones’ 28-save shutout was overshadowed by San Jose’s offensive onslaught, but he made several huge stops in the first period to keep the game scoreless while he waited for his teammates to get going. It was Jones’ second straight strong game after getting pulled against Winnipeg and following a horrible December in which he posted an .889 save percentage and 3.06 goals against average in 11 games.
San Jose is still on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff position, and it needs better goaltending if it’s going to make a run at a spot. Two games aren’t enough to change any expectations of Jones for the rest of the season, but last night, he was the only reason the team wasn’t down a goal or two after the first period. A little more consistency from Jones is exactly what the Sharks need going forward,