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Sharks 5, Predators 4: Not such easy prey in Nashville

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The Sharks win a big one against their first powerhouse team of the season.

Oct 23, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; San Jose Sharks players celebrate after the game-winning goal by defenseman Brent Burns (88) during the third period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In hockey, finding a way to win when things aren’t going well is one of the greatest assets a team can have. Tonight, we saw first hand how helpful that attribute can be, as the Sharks tried to find their game against a hot team, an elite team.

After Timo Meier opened scoring on the power play in the first, the Predators’ Viktor Arvidsson responded. The Predators then took a 2-1 lead right out of the gate in the second, but they ceased control of play for long stretches. The Sharks found a way to respond later in the period after yet another great pass by Logan Couture and highlight reel goal by Tomas Hertl made it 2-2.

From there, the Predators pushed on the gas, taking a 3-2 lead on a Filip Forsberg goal and then a 4-2 lead after a heart-breaking crossbar shot from Goodrow turned into a 2-on-1 for Nashville. With the Sharks struggling to find positioning, much less less any sustained pressure, the ice definitely seemed tilted heading into the third.

For most of the third, the Sharks seemed unable to string together any consistency although they were finally starting to look like at least they could compete. While they weren’t great, they hung in there until Brenden Dillon took matters into his own hands, making a true end-to-end rush from behind his own net, and capping it off with a wrist shot to give the Sharks a glimmer of hope.

To San Jose’s credit, they stepped up at this point, taking their game up a notch and finally finding ways push the play at the Predators. “Pushing the play” was exactly what created the equalizer. Evander Kane turned a routine breakout in their zone into a slight 3-on-2 rush into the Predators end. Couture took his feed and sent it cross-zone to Joe Pavelski, who fired it past Juuse Saros to tie the game.

Just about five minutes of back-and-forth play later, the Sharks went on a power play and after applying some good sustained pressure, Brent Burns, from low in the left faceoff circle, one-timed a perfect Erik Karlsson pass high and by Saros. Sharks took the lead. Sharks had tohang on.

Those who watched the game probably thought that Nashville looked like the better team. They are probably right. Still, finding a way to win is an important piece for elite teams, and doing it against elite opponents, even moreso. I guess we can go ahead and check that box right now.

Pregame

Tonight the Sharks face the Nashville Predators in their first true test against a top tier, legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Can possession successes continue and even translate to a win against one of the top defensive teams in the league? We shall see.

After turning the tables on the Islanders, last game finally felt like a breakthrough as possession finally equaled outcome. With the Sharks’ fancy stats going through the roof in the early going, it was nice to see the score reflect what has largely been dominant performances by San Jose.

And in case that’s not enough, let us remind you of these also:

Everywhere you look the Sharks are outperforming every metric but that one that ends up in the standings. Still, it is easy to point to tonight’s game as their first real test of the season and a measuring stick to see if the slowly building chemistry is where it needs to be for full-season success.

For the Predators, a 7-1 start looks pretty fantastic, but the team’s PDO is falling firmly in the “lucky” category. Clearly they have the talent, but forward line depth could prove a challenge as the season progresses. The larger question for Nashville is the health of goaltender Pekka Rinne, who suffered the less-than-explanatory “upper body injury” and has been put on the Injured Reserve for an undisclosed period of time. Juuse Saros has long been seen as the Predators’ goalie of the future, and for him, the future is clearly now. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to handling starting duties over the long term.

Here’s a quick look at tonight’s line combos, with San Jose rolling with the same lines they have been employing for the last few games. Still no Joe Thornton or Dylan Gambrell, who has been called up in his absence.

According to NHL.com the Nashville lines for tonight would appear to be:

Forwards

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Calle Jarnkrok - Nick Bonino - Ryan Hartman
Zac Rinaldo - Colton Sissons - Miikka Salomaki

Defense

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Goaltenders

Juuse Saros
Troy Grosenick

For the Sharks, Martin Jones will take the crease opposite Juuse Saros. Former San Jose Barracuda netminder Troy Grosenick will be making his only real appearance this season against his former organization, backing up Saros.

Here’s how the two teams stack up. As is typical so far for the Sharks this season, the Win/Loss record is not commensurate with many of the team’s numbers.

Tonight’s game will be broadcast nationally on NBCS and the radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET.

Check back then for live reactions and commentary.


Happy Tuesday late-afternoon all! GDub here to watch the game with you all and provide thoughts and commentary on the proceedings. Excited to see these two elite teams to go at it and I look forward to the questions and conversation below.

First Period

20:00: Just about ready to go. Bakes in on the national broadcast!

19:45: Quick early shot by Arvidsson, quick early save by Jones. Nothing like getting tested right away!

18:22 The Donskoi - Suomela - Sorensen line continues to cause a little havoc.

17:36: Jones looks behind him on the Subban wrister from the blue line. He had it, but it doesn’t help my heart rate.

17:22: Forsberg, Johansson, Arvidsson all around the net. Sharks will need to tighten up on them sooner rather than later.

16:43: So Subban steps up and interferes with Pavelski, but Pavelski stick Subban in the face. I guess high-sticking > interference. Pavs to the box for 2. PK coming up.

16:04: After Fiala dances in and gets stoned by Jones on the PP rush (which was a way to easy zone entry), the Sharks turn it into a 3 on 1 which is broken up by a great stick check by Ellis.

14:36: Again, Jones looks sharp during the Nashville PP stopping a point blast, then a point blank shot on the doorstep. The Sharks turn the save into a rush and after a Timo Meier wide screamer, the whistle is blown for a Nashville penalty behind the play.

13:02: Sharks to the PP and GOAL Timo Meier! Timo Time using his body, cleaning up in front of the net makes it Sharks 1 Preds 0.

That Sharks Power Play continues to look dangerous with quality possession and looks from all over the zone. Add Hertl, Pavelski, and Meier, who all camp in front of the net, and there is another example of the type of goals we will see a lot of this year.

12:29: Not long after the goal, Donskoi’s elusiveness forces another Nashville penalty. Sharks going back on the PP.

10:27: PP over with no results but the Sharks with more quality possession and zone time. That Erik Karlsson can really control play. How long into this season are we allowed to continue to marvel at him?

09:19: Another solid save on a tip from the slot by Jones. Looking sharp tonight.

08:46: ...and maybe I should not have even thought that, much less typed it. Arvidsson knocks a puck out of his zone, chases it down past the D, gets a breakaway, and scores a backhand deke beauty. Hard to fault Jones there. Sharks 1, Preds 1.

05:49: Jones stops another attempt on his doorstep, snuffing out the five-hole stuff play.

This game has been fast, end-to-end, with opportunities galore (shots are even at 10). I refuse to use the “playoff-feel” cliche, but...

04:23: Dillion sticks his stick into a forechecking Predator’s skate and he went full Superman. No call. We’re fine with that.

02:46: Game is settling down a little bit in the final minutes of the first. More back and forth neutral zone defense and turnovers than real dangerous zone play. Nashville has looked to control play slightly more at 5v5 in the last two minutes, including a decent shift by Nashville’s top line.

01:50: Now that I’ve watched Erik Karlsson closely for two weeks, I’m totally qualified to call Roman JosiErik Karlsson Light”. He creates a good chance with speed and skating, turning a breakout into a rush that ends with a deflected pass on an otherwise decent chance.

00:44: Jones way out of his crease to stop the Turris slapshot from the very high slot. Routine, sure, but Jones looking very confident so far tonight.

00:00: And the first is in the books. San Jose Sharks 1 (Meier PP), Nashville Predators 1 (Arvidsson). If the game ever gets back to the pace of the first 12 minutes or so, hold on to your hats.

Definitely a fun one so far.

First Intermission: The Sharks look spectacular on the PP tonight with crisp passing and getting bodies down low. It’s great to see that rewarded. They definitely faded over the course of the period and didn’t piece together too much meaningful 5v5 play over the last 10 minutes or so.

Totally eyeballing here, but I feel like there were too many pucks chipped past our D and easily retrieved by Nashville forwards (the exact play that resulted in Arvidsson’s breakaway). Would like to see the defensive work rate and tenacity around the rink match the offensive creativity.

Second Period

20:00: Ready to start again. It will be interesting to see what the pace is as the period starts.

19:39: Well, that was quick. Goal by Forsberg after getting two whacks at a loose rebound. Erik Karlsson was all over him but Forsberg is not easy to move down low. Sharks 1, Nashville 2.

18:11: Rourke Chartier continues to impress with his hockey IQ. Created a good chance with a nice pass to the trailer Dillon. No goal but nice play.

17:51: The Sharks getting at least a little 5v5 zone time this period. They are also not letting Nashville get much zone time...well, since the goal anyway.

16:16: Chartier with some more inspired play, pull-dragging a wrister that looked more dangerous than it should have been, then keeping the puck in the zone to setup play.

14:50: Another couple of shifts with reasonable zone time. Sharks need to continue this pattern. Being good on the rush or the man advantage is all well and good, but they have to maintain some consistent zone pressure.

13:36: Random observation: MEV still seems to forget who he has on his other side. I feel like I see him look off Erik Karlsson and take himself when given open ice, even if Karlsson has equally open lanes. Just something I’ve been tracking over the last few games. If I could pick one of the two to rush the puck, I’m choosing Karlsson every time. Sorry Pickles.

12:58: Only 5 shots so far (2 SJ, 3 Nash). The pace has definitely been more measured.

12:08: GOAL Tomas Hertl on the rush. Wow wow wow! Beautiful timing through-pass deep in the zone by Logan Couture to put Hertl alone on Saros. Hertl heading near post changes direction on a dime and stuffs the puck by Saros on the far side. Beautiful play. We are witnessing what a healthy Hertl can do when he is at peak confidence level.

SJ 2, Nashville 2.

09:15: Aaaaand the Preds top line has another goal. Arvidsson again. Jones shuts him down on another breakaway (that looked almost identical to the first), immediately stuffs the rebound shot, then is victimized by a great pass from Johansson from the corner while the Sharks all seemed to be watching the puck. Arvidsson takes the pass about 4 feet out and puts it in a largely wide open net. Not great defensive coverage in the zone by SJ.

Sharks 2, Preds 3.

06:09: Sharks fourth line looking pretty good tonight. That is all. Carry on.

05:09: Shots are 18 - 16, Nashville and, empirically anyway, shot quality looks similar for both teams. This could easily be a tie game or reverse score. Jones’ saves have stood out more to me, but Saros has been consistently positioned correctly.

04:10: Kane backchecks and disrupts what would otherwise have been another Predators breakaway. Braun had pinched his man to the boards, not sure where Burns was. I think I may create a keyboard short-cut for that phrase for future live-blogs.

02:20: Troubling trend the last few minutes as the Preds appear to be outworking the Sharks. Seeing lots of yellow jerseys getting behind Sharks and going unmarked. Now, Ryan gets called for interference against Jarnkrok (still a good name for a Heavy Metal band). Sharks go on the PK.

00:14: Unfortunate turn of events for the Sharks. A quality penalty kill leads to a 2-on-1 Barclay Goodrow wrist shot off the crossbar which caroms all the way out of the zone and turns into a great breakout pass that springs a Predators 2-on-1. Arvidsson fakes shot, slides puck to Craig Smith, bar-down, 4-2 Preds.

00:00: That’s it for the 2nd. A quick momentum swing like that is a tough way to go into the locker room. Nashville leads 20-18 in SOG. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. Okay, I’m a little angry. <shakes fist at hockey gods>

Second Intermission: Overall, the 2nd period largely looked like a mid road-trip energy sizzle-out by the Sharks. Problem is, this is the first game of this road trip. The lone 2nd period SJ goal was not a product of owning play, it was just a great hockey goal by two creative and skilled players. The Sharks really didn’t sustain any type of dangerous pressure most of the period and for the first prolonged time this year, seemed to be chasing the play, not pushing it.

The other real story here is that the Preds top line is outclassing anything San Jose puts out to rebuff them. 3 goals, 4 assists. Their dominance is eerily reminiscent of the old Getzlaf-Perry-whoever line that used to terrorize the Sharks a few years back. The Sharks need to find an answer, and quick, because this isn’t the only top tier line they will face this year.

Third Period

19:28: Arvidsson again with a dangerous chance quick in the period. The Preds’ top line is right back it.

18:38: Lebanc with a nice redirect, good pad by Saros. Nashville’s D also does a great job tying up anyone else to prevent further danger.

16:22: I needed a little time to confirm it wasn’t just the product of a change, but Erik Karlsson appears to be double-shifting. He was paired with Dillon (before and after a stoppage) and then was back with Vlasic a short time later.

Now Scissons gets a high-stick call and goes for two. Sharks go on a much needed PP.

14:22: Well that was unspectacular. Nothing to show for the PP. A couple of decent looks but not the dominant PP we’ve gotten used to seeing.

14:07: And now the Preds will go on the Power Play after a mystery delay of game penalty.

11:27: Recap of the last few minutes. The Sharks finally started to look a little dangerous again. Not getting sustained pressure but more frequent chances. The Sharks were not good playing a passive box on the PK, but Nashville failed to convert (including a point blank one-time slapshot by Fiala where he left all alone.

10:03: Tripping on Evander Kane not long after Forsberg lost the handle just before finishing off a beautiful play of his own creation. Sharks digging the wrong direction to get out of the hole they are in. Sharks go on the PK.

09:27: Sharks still sticking to a passive box on the PK, as opposed to the active box they were employing in the games leading up to this. Not sure if it is strategy or lack of energy. Holding the line so far, but Preds seem to have time and space.

08:20: GOAL SAN JOSE!!!!! Shorthanded goal on the end-to-end rush by....checks again...checks again...yes that was Brendan Dillon with the beauty far side wrist shot. Bakes said, they seem surprised by the rush. Well Jamie, it was Brendan Dillon. Yes they were surprised. Sharks 3, Nashville 4.

07:44: And just like that, GOAL Joe Pavelski!!!! Building on the momentum, Kane takes a breakout rush, turns it into a 3-on-2 in the zone, which ends up on Couture’s stick who makes a great cross ice pass to Pavs who wrists it home. How quickly the tide can turn, eh? All tied up at 4 here. Wow.

06:20: Evander Kane has gone from invisible to impactful in a flash. It seems the Sharks have firmly established a second-wind here in the third. Better late than never?

04:51: Martin Jones with a beauty save on Johansson in the slot.

04:43: Highstick on Nashville. Huge PP for the Sharks here.

02:52: GOOOOOAL Brent Burns!!! A monster bomb from the Ovechkin spot after a nice setup pass from Karlsson. Unreal. Let’s see if the Sharks can close this game with the energy they only really brought back recently in the third. Sharks 5, Nashville 4.

01:15: Timeout Nashville. Empty net Nashville.

00:37: Great block by Melker to knock that puck out of the zone.

Ok, ok. This game definitely started with, and has now returned to, a playoff feel.

00:00: Horn blows. That game was ridiculous. I need an adult beverage to calm down.

Final Score: Sharks 5, Predators 4.