Though the San Jose Sharks produced much better on-ice results against the Anaheim Ducks than they did against the Vegas Golden Knights, the scoreboard didn’t cooperate. If someone told you only the score of last night’s game, you’d be forgiven for raising an skeptical eyebrow when that someone followed up their assertion by telling you the Sharks were the much better 5-on-5 team for most of the night.
In the first period, the Sharks took 63 percent of all score- and venue-adjusted shots with five skaters aside. The team also generated just fewer than 53 percent of all expected goals. Alas, John Gibson did what John Gibson is used to doing and kept the visitors off the scoreboard as his team took a Michael Del Zotto (?!) goal to a 1-0 first-period lead. If you’re not going to let a rookie score their first NHL goal, might as well do the second-best thing and let a third-pairing defender score his first goal since November of last year.
And if the Sharks looked disjointed at times while they allowed bizarre goals from surprise players, it’s because they were. The second period was far less kind to Team Teal. In the middle frame, they took just 34 percent of all 5-on-5 shots and created a similar fraction of expected goals. The two goals San Jose allowed that period were far more deserved than the tally they gave up to open the contest.
Desperation kicked in during the third, and the Sharks regained control of the shot tide, at least momentarily. By the time the final buzzer sounded, however, San Jose had taken just one more 5-on-5 shot than their opponents. Adjusting for the score of the game essentially nullified any advantage the team had forged on the stat sheet, as the final 20 minutes were a fairly even affair.
In total, the Sharks launched 36 pucks Gibson’s way, but not many were otherwise destined for twine.
In what has quickly become a concern for a once-prolific offense, San Jose have yet to threaten from the middle of the ice in any game. Gibson certainly did his part, saving nearly two full goals more than what one might have expected of him. But, it flatters the Sharks to add 36 shots on goal to their season ledger.
The good news is that there are some positive considerations to glean from this adventure. Danil Yurtaykin seems to have solidified himself as one of the team’s top-six forwards. He played the fifth-most 5-on-5 minutes of any Sharks forward, and helped the Sharks outshoot the Ducks during them. The winger also added a minute of power play time. Some of that sheen will fade away when Evander Kane checks back into the lineup after his suspension, but Yurtaykin appears here to stay.
In another sign the apocalypse isn’t quite here, Joe Thornton turned in a stellar performance one evening after a dreadful outing. The ancient center played 12:16 of 5-on-5 time and helped San Jose double up the Ducks in total shots and nearly outproduce them by a factor of three in the expected-goals column. Perhaps the most impressive part of that stat line is that he did so while playing with Melker Karlsson for seven minutes and against Ryan Getzlaf and Ondrej Kase.
Finally, Timo Meier was Timo Meier. The star forward played more than any Shark not named Erik or Brent, took six total shots, four shots on goal, created a rebound, and generated more individual scoring chances than anyone else on the ice (Natural Stat Trick). The goals are coming in short order.
The blessing in disguise so far this season has been that the Sharks haven’t won any games accidentally. It’s better that they suffer the losses that come with poor play; one has to imagine there’s a better chance they focus on fixing the process in that scenario. Fans will hope they do, anyway, because most of what’s happening out there looks broken.