The San Jose Sharks are closing in on their goal, which isn’t just to win games.
”We just gotta keep rolling,” said Justin Braun, of his team’s modest two-game win streak. “Start shutting guys down like we used to.”
San Jose clearly isn’t there yet. Despite the 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Sharks were blown away in terms of shot volume and location. This wasn’t just because of score effects either — after the first period, per Natural Stat Trick, San Jose was overwhelmed by shots (17-9) and 5-on-5 High-Danger Corsi (9-1). Regardless, they managed a 2-0 lead in the opening frame.
For what it’s worth, Martin Jones, who turned away 39 shots last night, didn’t seem fazed.
”The shot clock doesn’t always tell the story of the game,” indicated Jones. “It’s the odd-man rushes and high-quality chances that we’ve limited the last couple games. There wasn’t too many where I really had to steal any.”
In that sense, Jones wasn’t wrong — there has been that degree of improvement in the Sharks’ defensive game.
At least four of the Hurricanes’ “high-danger” first period chances were off “more bark than bite” in-tight whacks — one by Dougie Hamilton midway through the opening frame and three consecutive from Teuvo Teravainen to close the period — bids that didn’t appear to be most difficult, as Jones wasn’t even forced to move side to side.
There was, by my count, only one clear Carolina odd-man attack in the first stanza, after a late, unforced Joe Pavelski neutral zone turnover.
That’s progress, right?
Brenden Dillon (4), in particular, played a huge role in limiting Carolina challenges.
”It was maybe Dilly’s best game all year,” suggested Peter DeBoer.
It all started with a hit.
Off an early Barclay Goodrow (23) faceoff victory, a quick Warren Foegele (13) forced Erik Karlsson (65) to surrender the puck to an open corner. It was now a 50-50. Dillon, however, churned his feet and used his 6-foot-4 frame to establish body position in the race for the puck.
Karlsson picked up the loose change, slingshotting out of the zone. Filling in for Goodrow, who was behind on the play, Karlsson drove the center lane hard, helping to push the Hurricanes back.
Melker Karlsson (68) dumped it in. Erik Karlsson, realizing his teammate’s dump-in was placed behind Curtis McElhinney and to Jaccob Slavin (74) — as opposed to an open corner — smartly peeled back instead of chasing a losing puck battle down low.
Instead, Slavin rimmed it off a rut in the corner.
DeBoer noticed, “Had some bounces tonight, which we haven’t got a lot of lately.”
Clark Bishop (64) couldn’t handle the surprise bounce. Melker Karlsson touched the puck forward to Kevin Labanc, while setting a not-so-subtle pick on Bishop. Goodrow beat Foegele off the half-wall to the front.
”I saw Goody there,” said Labanc. “He had a quick shot.”
Every Sharks skater except Dillon touched the puck on that shift, but the blue-collar defender certainly did his part to get the visitors chasing the game from the get-go.
”We did some good stuff, little details that led to bigger things, created some offense. It started in the d-zone,” acknowledged Timo Meier.
At the end of the first period, Dillon, to use Braun’s words, helped again to keep San Jose’s momentum rolling. Up 2-0, he shut down a potentially devastating Carolina 2-on-1.
Marcus Sorensen (20) tried to use the boards to chip the puck past a forechecking Sebastian Aho (20) to Joe Thornton (19). Aho, however, anticipated.
The only Shark close enough to do anything was an alert Dillon, who hadn’t taken a San Jose exit for granted. With Jordan Staal (11) ready to fire in the slot, Dillon used his feet and stick to aggressively close on Aho, taking away the royal road cross.
Positive result withstanding, this was the correct reaction by Dillon, as Aho’s only high-danger option, considering his position on the half-wall, was the pass. There was no significant shot threat here.
”We had contributions from everybody,” said DeBoer. “But our depth guys like [Dillon] really did a good job.”