The Sharks may be eliminated, but at least for another round there will be playoff hockey in San Jose after the Barracuda dispatched the Heat with a 2-1 OT win in a do-or-die Game 5 at the SAP Center last night.
A trio of familiar faces played pivotal roles in the win. Timo Meier, Troy Grosenick, and Ryan Carpenter ensured that the Sharks’ top minor league affiliate advanced out of the first round for the first time since moving to San Jose, as well as the first time since 2009-10.
The postseason form Meier displayed with the Sharks was on full display with the Barracuda. This time, however, Meier managed to find the back of the net.
The Barracuda were unable to solve Stockton starter David Rittich, who left the game after the first period, or his replacement, Jon Gillies, until Meier tied the game at a goal apiece with just over ten minutes remaining in regulation.
Meier was a man possessed last night, and finished with eight shots on goal. As was the case during his time with the big club this postseason, he’s been one of the Barracuda’s most active offensive weapons, and has managed 17 shots on goal in just four games with the baby Sharks.
The 2015 first round pick is, undoubtedly, a bright part of the Sharks’ future. If the strides he’s made this postseason can carry over into training camp, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer may have no choice but to play him.
Troy Grosenick also had a strong game, and he needed to after allowing 12 goals in his last three starts. He wasn’t needed often, as he faced only 28 shots compared to the 54 his crease counterparts on Stockton saw, but stood tall when called upon.
Grosenick even flashed the leather for a Nabokovian glove save as the game was tied at one late in the third period.
Stops like that may not be enough to keep the 27-year-old Grosenick in San Jose next season, given that the Sharks’ top two spots on the depth chart are pretty much set. But, they could be enough for this season’s Baz Bastien award winner as the AHL’s best goaltender to get a look with another NHL club, especially as Vegas enters the league next season.
But the Barracuda’s best player, by far, was Ryan Carpenter. Carpenter scored the shorthanded, game-winning goal just under nine minutes into the extra frame.
Aside from the winner, Carpenter was the best player on the ice, leading all skaters with nine shots on goal. It was the latest in what’s been a postseason hot streak for Carpenter, who now has seven points in five games this season.
Carpenter showed flashes in his limited time with the Sharks this year, as San Jose was a much better possession team at even strength with him on the ice (5.69 rel CF%, 7.11 rel FF%). Should the pending unrestricted free agent return to the Sharks, he will likely, at worst, compete for one of the Sharks’ final forward spots, and could even be a lock to make the team out of camp depending on what happens in the expansion draft.
It’s hard to find fault with anyone’s game last night after the Barracuda advanced and dominated the Heat on the shot clock. The good news for the Sharks is that young players such as Danny O’Regan, Kevin Labanc, and Mirco Mueller get to play in more games to aid in their development.
The Barracuda’s Calder Cup run continues Friday against the San Diego Gulls. San Jose went 5-3-1-1 against San Diego this season, and four of those ten games were decided by a goal.