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Sharks 7, Blackhawks 2: Sharks’ goal-scoring comes to crescendo against Chicago

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For the second straight game, San Jose leaned on an impressive second period for a big win.

Mar 1, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl (48) attempts to shoot against Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy (5) during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose.
Goals must be always
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

During San Jose’s first game after the 2018 NHL trade deadline, their offense came to life. The Sharks put 37 pucks on net, including 25 high-danger chances, per naturalstattrick.com. The addition of Evander Kane surely helped this: over the past three-plus seasons, Kane ranks among the top 36 forwards in terms of his offensive contribution at 5v5.

We can measure that contribution by looking at the rate of shots, unblocked shots, and expected goals he provides after trying to adjust for the strength of teammates with whom he plays.

Even San Jose’s defense — a growing problem for most of the season — showed signs of redemption, limiting the Edmonton Oilers to just 21 5v5 shots on net.

Yet, playing the Oilers can make many teams look good at this point in the season, and San Jose’s impressive two periods against their northern neighbors did not suddenly absolve the team of their problems down the season’s home stretch.

When Artem Anisimov scored just two-and-a-half minutes into the game after the Blackhawks spent large portions of the opening minutes in San Jose’s zone, it felt like déjà vu.

The game continued, quickly end-to-end, as a game between two high-event teams with defensive deficiencies will often do. Later in the opening frame, Joonas Donskoi took a zone entry along the boards before sending a pass behind his back to Brent Burns. Burns, a hirsute mountain barreling into the offensive zone, faked a shot to freeze the defense before swiftly sliding the puck across the center of the zone to Joe Pavelski, who threw the puck off Jean-Francois Berube’s outstretched pad and into the net.

San Jose doubled their goal total with just fewer than six minutes to play in the first period. Tomas Hertl kept the puck alive in the offensive zone, chipping it through three Blackhawks. Unfortunately for Chicago, a defender had fallen on the play and was unable to clear the puck that slid to him along the ice. Hertl flipped the bouncing disk to Mikkel Boedker, who sent a backhand pass across the Chicago crease to Logan Couture.

The tap-in goal marked the 16th scoring chance of the game, according to naturalstattrick.com, a reminder of the breathless skating that was likely to follow.

San Jose Sharks play the Chicago Blackhawks at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.
A solid start saw San Jose ahead of Chicago after 1
naturalstattrick.com

Unlike many of the 2018 performances, the Sharks continued directing shots toward their opponent’s net in the second period. Kevin Labanc was not quite able to turn a 2-on-1 rush into a pass to Timo Meier. Labanc turned and fed what looked to be an errant pass back through the offensive zone that eventually found Joakim Ryan’s stick. A slapshot rebound found Chris Tierney, who calmly sent a pass wide to the waiting Labanc for San Jose’s third of the evening.

The Kids Table line would continue its rambunctiousness as the second 20 minutes wore on. An extended period of zone play saw Timo Meier redirect a Brenden Dillon shot from the point to extend San Jose’s lead to three goals.

Martin Jones also contributed to the Sharks’ second big game in a row, stopping a ‘Hawks breakaway and subsequent flurry of shots before his team took the puck back down the length of the ice yet again. A deep forward corps for Chicago allowed the Sharks’ forwards to get back behind the defense as Donskoi skated into the zone alone.

His pass was so well timed, so accurate, so perfectly executed that Berube could only look over his shoulder in disdain as Pavelski added the team’s fifth into what amounted to an open net.

A bizarre play following a San Jose power play — the first for either team all game — saw a scramble in front of the net and a bouncing puck behind Chicago’s net. Chris Tierney found Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who flung the puck off the calf of an unsuspecting Berube and into the net.

The evening only continued to improve for San Jose, as their fourth line added a seventh goal early in the final period. Marcus Sorensen slid a pass across the Blackhawks’ net mouth to a Barclay Goodrow bearing down on the crease. Goodrow slipped into the goalie, and Chicago defenders knocked the puck into the net, though the credit for the goal would go to Goodrow.

After they completed the route, San Jose finally turtled. Despite registering a number of shots, the Blackhawks were only able to break through with half a minute remaining in the game, adding a consolation goal to their anemic total.

Tonight continued San Jose’s streak of 5v5 goal-scoring in the new calendar year. They had scored 70, 5v5 goals in their 29 games in 2018 coming into tonight’s game. That number ranks second in the league after Pittsburgh during that time frame. Their 2.93 goals per 60 minutes of 5v5 ranks 6th in the league during that same stretch.

After two post-deadline games, the Sharks look rejuvenated. The caveat to their recent run of play is that they’ve played a bad team and an underperforming team playing its second- and third-string goalies, and have still given up their fair share of shots and chances against.

The offense is more likely positive regression than it is a sudden talent infusion creating a goal-scoring juggernaut. San Jose will have to shore up the other side of the puck if they want to make a deep run this spring.

NOTES

  • All four of San Jose’s forward lines were on the ice for a 5v5 goal. All seven of San Jose’s goals were during 5v5 play.
  • San Jose still gave up 31 shots on net. While some of that was surely score- influenced, it’s a sign the team’s defense hasn’t really improved.
San Jose Sharks beat the Chicago Blackhawks at SAP Center on March 1, 2018 in San Jose, California
That’s the good stuff
naturalstattrick.com
  • This heatmap is exactly what the Sharks must continue to produce offensively. Earlier in the season, we looked at how their reliance on point shots was probably holding their goal-scoring back. It’s not a coincidence that a heatmap like this led to more conversions.