As good as the Sharks were at 5-on-5 last night, they were perhaps equally as bad on the penalty kill and between the pipes. The Sharks were unlucky to not have walked away with more, but they also faced one of the league’s best goalies. They didn’t help themselves with a man in the penalty box, and Martin Jones didn’t help much, either. San Jose painted the offensive zone with unblocked shots and approached asymptotic levels of graph-busting shot share, but couldn’t squeeze out more than a pair of measly counters.
The game showed both how dominant San Jose can be this season, but also where they are most vulnerable. In a word, the game was promising. It’s nothing to scream and kick and yell about. It is one game into a season of many, and it’s one game that showed mostly how good this team can be.
Before we get into the bad, let’s take a moment to appreciate and helpfully enjoy Tomas Hertl, having fun, always.
The Sharks seemed again to employ a penalty kill more intent on creating the types of turnovers that led to this goal than it is on preventing shots against. Anaheim didn’t sling rubber endlessly during their power plays. The two extra-man goals they scored didn’t require volume. Just three quick passes and a backdoor tap-in. There was reason to believe that the departure of Chris Tierney and his inability to defend would be addition by subtraction to the Sharks’ penalty kill. The only thing we have reason to believe right now is that their power play will continue to be an issue this season.
San Jose’s penalty kill looked as if it asked to be carved like Thanksgiving turkey, and the man behind them seemed a willing participant in the masochistic ritual, as well. Martin Jones stopped just 71.4 percent of shots he faced (all situations). The skaters in front of him were responsible for lapses that led to his demise. But, Jones’ 71.4 percent is 20.5 percentage points — and nearly three goals — below what we would have expected out of a league-average goalie in the same situation.
In either case, it’s important not to lean too much on one game in formulating an understanding of the team. There is a difference between the penalty kill and the goaltender, though. Jones is unlikely to be a .714 goalie all season. The penalty kill’s futility last night was an extension of the so-so state it occupied for the entirety of last year.
At the other end of the rink, John Gibson showed his Vezina-caliber fortitude. The young ‘tender walked away with a 93.9 save percentage, a full 1.6 percent higher than the mark an average goalie would have posted. Led by the first line duo of Timo Meier and Joe Thornton, San Jose did what it could to spoil Gibson’s effort. With those two forwards on the ice together at 5-on-5, San Jose took 18 unblocked shots and allowed just two against. Meier and his now-beardless former father figure were also responsible for nearly an entire expected goal in their time together. It’s the family reunion the entire organization’s been waiting for. Those two weren’t the only skaters wearing teal to fire pucks at will. When the Sharks iced Antti Suomela, Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi at 5-on-5, San Jose took nine shots on goal and allowed zero against.
In all, the Sharks generated more dangerous chances than the final score gave them credit for. And though the home team let fly from just about anywhere last night, they also did more than enough to secure a few more biscuits in the basket.
When the team got to play with a man advantage, they started slowly, but picked things up as the game progressed. Though the power play looked disjointed initially, the staff and team figured out a way to settle down the extra-man attack. The team didn’t reach nearly the shot volume it enjoyed last year when it ended the year as the a top-five power play. It did show resilience and an ability to adapt quickly mid-game, and that’s likely more important.
Finally, the new pair of Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon must’ve spiked each other’s Gatorade with something happy. With those two on the ice together, San Jose allowed just one shot on goal against in nearly 11 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. Using Dillon’s deployment last year as a barometer, we can expect Braun to face much-less-offensively-gifted opponents along with teammates who are less responsibly defensively (i.e., he’s not playing with Vlasic anymore). The net result might not be that different than the shot differential Braun put forth last season, but in fewer minutes, any poor showings this season should hopefully matter less.
The major takeaway from this game should be that, with Karlsson threading passes through opponents’ legs and three potent forward lines, San Jose’s offensive upside resides somewhere at the end of a stairway to heaven. If they’d like to outperform the 100-point seasons many statisticians predict is likely, the Sharks will have to mend their penalty kill and hope tonight’s performance remains an outlier for Martin Jones.
Here’s the final shot counter. More of this and San Jose will win more games than it will lose.