Pete Deboer has been pretty clear on the Sharks’ power play struggles as of late and the general theme seems to be “this too shall pass.” It hasn’t been the most encouraging piece of wisdom when what was once one of the best power plays in the league had been held off to a franchise high 0-28 over the course of 12 games.
But maybe Deboer was onto something.
Tonight’s match up against the St. Louis Blues only saw a minor change to the power play, inserting Kevin Labanc into the top unit. Deboer didn’t look to reinvent the wheel with this change and Labanc had been pushing hard on the power play over the past few games, so maybe allowing him to work with Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, and Evander Kane could tip the scales of that top unit.
It turned out that the second unit would be the one to end the scoreless man-advantage for the Sharks, but we’ll get to that.
The first period felt like deja vu. St. Louis has been known for low-scoring games this season and it seems that the Paul Stastny trade knocked all of the air out of their offensive tires. Just as when the to teams met two weeks ago, a defensive-heavy first period felt fairly evenly matched, even though the Sharks walked away with all of the high-danger scoring chances and out-shot the Blues 9-4.
The Sharks only trended up through the scoreless second period. Five minutes in, Chris Tierney got the puck to Labanc, who feed it straight to Jake Allen. St. Louis defenseman Vincent Dunn got called for hooking Tierney behind the play, letting the slightly-modified Sharks power play go to work. They couldn’t quite open scoring on that man-advantage.
Though St. Louis worked closer to even on shots (10-12, San Jose), once again, the Sharks went into the dressing room with 100 percent of the high-danger chances from their guys.
At the start of the third, the Blues gave up on their offense. They were given a power play opportunity of their own early in the period when Tomas Hertl was called for hooking, but failed to convert. In the entire third period, the Blues only managed two shots on goal.
Halfway through the period, Evander Kane drew a penalty from Kyle Brodziak, who was blatantly holding his stick. The second power play unit drew first blood as the power play wound down. Joonas Donskoi fed a soft pass to Mikkel Boedker in the slot, who then beat out Jake Allen for the first goal of the game in the final eight minutes.
Tomas Hertl tacked on an insurance empty-netter, but the Blues were already long gone by then.
- Martin Jones was only tasked with making 16 saves tonight and he did perfect. Per Darin Stephens, this is the sixth time in Sharks history that a shutout has been recorded with 16 or fewer saves and the second time Martin Jones has had such a shutout (previously on December 7, 2013 with the L.A. Kings against the New York Islanders).
- Hertl, Burns, and Kane each had four shots on goal, while Couture and Meier had three.
- The Sharks were dominant in every way tonight:
- Well, except for that one factor:
- The only Sharks players with a CF% under 50 tonight were the fourth line of Barclay Goodrow, Marcus Sorensen, and Eric Fehr. With just under ten minutes of ice time, both Fehr and Sorensen were at 46.67, while Goodrow was at 41.18. Not too shabby of a showing for the fourth line.
- The Sharks had 100 percent of the high-danger scoring chances through all three periods. That’s the good stuff.
- There were at least two missed calls in the second period for the Blues having six players on the ice, but what would two more power play goals have done, right?
- The Anaheim Ducks lost to the Nashville Predators tonight, helping San Jose earn back some ground in the division. Unfortunately, the Kings couldn’t do the same favor, beating the Washington Capitals, keeping the three teams within two points of each other in the standings race. The Sharks have returned to their rightful second place in the Pacific Division.