The Sharks were taught a lesson in Minnesota tonight, and were stymied by Minnesota’s defense and league best goaltender on the way to a 3-1 regulation loss. The Sharks’ special teams are becoming two divergent narratives, as their excellent penalty kill and less excellent power play battle for dominance in our hearts and minds. San Jose’s defensive depth was tested, as David Schlemko sat out with an upper body injury sustained early in the Sharks last game against Vancouver, and Dylan DeMelo saw his first opportunity in teal since a wrist injury forced him out of the line up on January 10.
The Minnesota Wild are having a bit of a Cinderella season in their first year with new head coach (and best quote in the NHL) Bruce Boudreau. With the win tonight, they jumped back into first in the Central division over the Chicago Blackhawks, and Devan Dubnyk holds onto the distinction of the highest save percentage among starters in the league. Add in the actualization of blue liners like Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, and the resurgence of Eric Staal, and you have what appears to be a newly dominant team in the West.
A wacky first period was largely dominated by the Wild, and they looked dangerous throughout. Minnesota was reinforced for their efforts early, as Zach Parise put the Wild on the board with a slick deflection of a Jason Pominville shot through Martin Jones’ legs at 11:06. The mumps don’t seem to have had any lasting effects, as Parise and Pominville both make an appearance on the scoresheet in their first game back after missing the last three.
Okay, here’s the fun part. Chris Stewart launched a one timer on net at 7:17, and started celebrating. Prematurely, as luck would have it, as it was later revealed that the puck flew past Jones’ head and lodged itself under the nameplate of his jersey. If any of you are still on the fence about the “New Wave” jerseys, maybe this one will win you over.
The Wild are nothing if not persistent, however, and Matt Dumba interrupted Tomas Hertl’s lovely afternoon skate by passing right through him from the corner to a streaking Eric Staal who snapped the puck home past Jones at 15:24. Stall’s secret backroom deal with a gypsy witch seems to have paid off this year, as this was his 47th point of the season, putting him on a point per game pace higher than he’s seen since the 2013-14 season.
Luckily for the Sharks, 20 minutes is a long time, and Melker Karlsson was finally rewarded for what has been a stretch of great play on the fourth line with Michael Haley and rookie Marcus Sorenson. Karlsson snapped a shot almost straight up past Devan Dubnyk’s left shoulder off of a great goal line one time pass from Michael Haley at 18:26 to make it 2-1.
A below-the-goal kind of tic-tac-toe. pic.twitter.com/mcLkPJmqS9— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) March 5, 2017
The Sharks started the second period killing a four minute high sticking penalty to captain and American Hero Joe Pavelski, a task which seemed to give them some jump once minute five rolled around. Two power plays came and went for the Sharks, and the man advantage looked pretty toothless, putting five (5) shots on goal through three power plays over the first two periods. Martin Jones certainly made up for those two goals in the first however, making no small amount of great saves, including one on a wild (get it?) breakaway by Parise. This whole “top save percentage goalie in the league” thing may have given him some get up and go. The Sharks ended their second straight period with another strong penalty kill, winning at least half of the special teams battle thus far.
The Sharks looked pretty listless for the first half of the third period, maybe they really missed the morning skate this morning and decided to have it during the game instead. Luckily, Jones was up to the task again, and kept them in it as they came to near the halfway mark. Good as Jones is, he can’t make saves from the bench (yet) and Staal put this one out of reach with a chipped puck past Brent Burns at the blue line and an empty net goal at 18:11.
- This fourth line has looked great all week, and it was reassuring to see them still look (a little) coherent and effective against a good team (sorry, Canada).
- Melker Karlsson really has looked like the player the Sharks coaching staff have seen in him all along. He looks fast, dangerous, confident, and he makes his linemates better.
- Remember when the Sharks power play was feared far and wide? When its mere mention would warrant naught but wailing and gnashing of teeth and the lamentations of our women? That seems to be a fond memory at this point, as the Sharks are now 4 for 32 since the beginning of February after going 0 for 3 tonight in Minnesota.
- While the Sharks’ forward depth is bordering on obscene, I certainly hope the addition of Jannik Hansen gives them some of the jump they sorely needed in the third period tonight. San Jose had one (1) scoring chance in the second and third periods combined, nebulous as that term is.
FTF Three Stars
- Martin Jones
- Devan Dubnyk
- Eric Staal