You knew the curse was broken as soon as Micheal Haley scored the go-ahead goal on Tuesday night. I knew it, too. Jack Eichel put the puck in his own net and it was credited as an unassisted tally to Haley. It stood up as the grinder’s first ever game-winning goal. Hockey can be an incredible game sometimes.
From that moment I knew the Sharks had the game in hand. There was plenty of time left for things to go sideways, much like it had back when San Jose coughed up a lead in Buffalo earlier this season. That wasn’t going to happen. The Sharks had good vibes on their side.
The goal, the second of the year for Haley, put San Jose on top as time wound down in the second period. It came as the result of immense pressure not just from the fourth line, though the bottom unit played just fine most of the night. The Sharks crushed the Sabres in possession and more than deserved two points. It was nice to see Team Teal get them.
Check out the shot chart from hockeyviz.com, which shows the waves of attack San Jose sent towards Buffalo’s net. Those waves culminated in Joe Pavelski’s power-play tally (on a penalty drawn by the fourth line), Haley’s goal and the two more that followed.
The Sharks did a whole lot of butt kicking, it just took until midway through the second period for it to show up on the scoreboard. Even guys who didn’t show up on the scoresheet, like Brent Burns, played a monster game in terms of possession. After a rough game against the Dallas Stars (possession only, don’t @ me), the Wookiee was back to his old self on Tuesday.
Likewise, Martin Jones continued his hot streak since the bye week by saving 22 of the 23 shots he faced. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in his last seven games and is on one heck of a roll. I’ll throw on my speculation hat and say the extra rest is doing him some good because that’s the narrative I want to believe. He’ll likely get the rest of the games this week, too, so I hope he gets some solid sleep tonight.
Even the power play got a bit of a throwback look tonight. As putrid as it has been this season, getting a chance to play against one of the worst penalty kills in the league really seemed to wake it up. Who saw that coming? Joe Pavelski’s finish, one of two goals on the night, was excellent. There’s still something off about it, and my hunch is that it’s tied to Joe Thornton. Start praying.
San Jose now holds a nine point lead in the Pacific and its magic number is also nine points to clinch a postseason spot. The Sharks magic number to grab its first division crown since 2011 is 18 points. That’s pretty darn cool. We’ve got 13 games left, so the Sharks only need to go 4-8-1 to make the playoffs or 9-4-0 to win the division. Or something like that.
I’ll take it.