The San Jose Sharks (2-4-0) are starting to turn things around. With the return of Patrick Marleau, the Sharks appear to be a little more even keeled in their past two games. That’s going to be put to the test tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes (6-1-0) blow into town.
Carolina is on the second night of back-to-back games after defeating the Los Angeles Kings last night by a score of 2-0. Goaltender Petr Mrazek claimed the shutout. He made 31 saves in the winning effort.
The Hurricanes are a high-flying offense that now has confidence to go along with their skill. This is a team that surprised hockey fans everywhere when they made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and took out the defending champion Washington Capitals in the first round. They swept the New York Islanders in round two before falling to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. The success gave this bunch of jerks a bit of swagger.
Carolina’s lineup isn’t too different from last season — in fact, it’s stronger. In the off-season the team signed much maligned, but still very good defenseman Jake Gardiner and added scoring depth with Ryan Dzingel. They also traded for Erik Haula, bringing in a very serviceable third line center. Yes, it was a productive off-season for what was already a very successful team.
Carolina is young, it’s fast, and it comes at you in waves. The top line of Nino Niederreiter, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are a scoring threat whenever they’re on the ice. But none of them lead the team in scoring. That honor actually goes to defenseman Dougie Hamilton (4 goals, 4 assists) and winger Andrei Svechnikov (1 goal, 7 assists), who both lead the team with 8 points. Haula leads the team with five goals. When your team is winning the way the Hurricanes are and your top guys aren’t even leading the way in scoring, you have a good thing going.
The Hurricanes have been trading off goalies to start the season. Since Mrazek played against the Kings last night, I’ll assume that James Reimer will be in goal tonight. Not that it matters much, Sharks’ fans know firsthand that Reimer is a more than capable backup. He’s 2-1-0 in this young season with a 2.65 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. In other words, just because they’re playing the backup doesn’t mean the road to a win is going to be any easier.
Can the Sharks keep up?
Last year, in the two games that the Sharks played against the Hurricanes, they looked like they had a hard time keeping up. The Hurricanes play at a quick pace and they have young forwards with plenty of energy. Adding Dzingel and Haula and a puck moving defenseman like Gardiner only make the ’Canes more dangerous.
The Sharks will need to be on their game and tonight. They’ll need to make crisp passes, smart decisions and choose the right play and not the fancy one. It’s going to be the biggest test of the young season for San Jose.
Gambrell stepped it up, will anyone follow?
Dylan Gambrell is starting to solidify himself as the team’s fourth line center. Sharks’ fans have been told something like this would happen, but it’s been more than a year since that declaration was made.
The Sharks spent a lot of time rotating through fourth line centers in the 2018-19 season and at the start of this one, it looked like the cycle would continue. However, Gambrell has now worked his way into the conversation.
After Sunday’s game against the Calgary Flames, Pete DeBoer said the following:
Great DeBoer quote, on why things might be clicking for Gambrell right now, as opposed to before: "Honestly, I think he just saw that he was close to being sent back...It's on us. Maybe we asked him to do too much. We played him on the wing, on the top 2 lines. It was too much." pic.twitter.com/Skejvqh3JV— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 14, 2019
The question now is, who will claim the other spots on the fourth line? Lean Bergmann has played six games and has just one assist. Lukas Radil has played five games. He has zero points and is a negative two plus/minus. Danil Yurtaykin has zero points in four games and is a negative one plus/minus.
In other words, there’s still a spot up for grabs.
Marcus Sorensen is a game time decision. He was skating with the third line on Tuesday, but there’s no word on how he’s feeling today. Sorensen hasn’t played since midway through the Oct. 5 game against the Anaheim Ducks. It’s a good sign that he’s practicing with the team, but DeBoer’s not ready to say Sorensen is game-ready yet.
Can the Sharks score first?
It’s pretty clear that when the Sharks score first, Martin Jones feels comfortable in net. At the same time, the Sharks’ defense seems to feel more comfortable when they have a lead.
Through the first three games, San Jose let in the first goal in the first five minutes of the game all three times. In the fourth straight loss of the season, they let in the first goal in the first seven minutes of the game. The team was basically behind before they even got their legs underneath them.
They bucked the trend in the game five against the Chicago Blackhawks, giving up the first goal of the game (just outside the five minute mark) but still battling back for the win. It was an ugly win.
Their more recent game, the Sharks scored first and they looked a whole lot better after that. Martin Jones was making saves, he finished the night with 32 saves and a .970 save percentage. The team defense looked better. It was an all around better effort and I think at least part of that can be attributed to playing with a lead.
San Jose hasn’t shown enough resiliency in this young season. I don’t trust that it will come through tonight so they need to score first.
Bold Prediction: Sorry Sharks fans, I know you’re going to get down on me for going against the team you know and love, but they’re outgunned tonight. While the Hurricanes will be tired after a back-to-back games with travel, they’re young and resilient. The capable backup goaltender helps too. It’s going to be a high-scoring affair and the ’Canes have more fire power.
Drop your prediction below. We’ll see you at game time.
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