In a night that was almost certain to be easy pickings for the Sharks, goaltending still almost cost them a repeat performance of the loss to this Winnipeg Jets earlier in this homestand.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and the Sharks were able to skate away with a rare win after putting up 58 unblocked shots and attempts and dominating play for nearly the entire game. Chicago put up a good fight in the third, just one goal away from sending the whole thing to overtime and earning a point for their troubles, and Martin Jones seemed eager to give it to them. But an empty net goal sealed their fate.
There are still issues to be addressed. A team with more skill and speed would take advantage of the Sharks in areas where Chicago simply could not. And as mentioned, goaltending could’ve undone the entire offensive effort put forward by this Sharks team tonight, who finally seemed to remember that they’re allowed to score at 5-on-5.
Am I glad for a win? Of course. Did I see improvements in the Sharks’ game? Absolutely, and you can read those thoughts below. Do I like this new line up? 100 percent, yes.
But it would be foolish to assume this is any kind of turning point. Consistency is the story of the season so far and the Sharks will impress me if and when they can find it.
Greetings, Sharks fans. Erika here live blogging for the first period. Sie will be taking over at some point in the game. Hopefully, NBCSN will switch me over to the Sharks-Blackhawks before the puck drop.
18:24: Shot by Tomas Hertl goes out of play, but a few good chances by the Sharks to start this game.
15:57: Erik Karlsson misses wide. In case you missed it, there’s only one Karlsson in tonight’s game.
13:35: Sharks break out after some sustained zone time by Chicago. The Sharks did a good job of keeping Chicago to the outside.
12:20: Sharks offside. Top line out.
9:35: Sharks’ Noah Gregor gets two minutes for hooking. Sharks on the penalty kill.
8:14: Sharks with a pair of scoring chances shorthanded, but Robin Lehner is up to the task.
7:35: Sharks kill the first power play of the game.
6:26: Lehner with a save. This third line of Marcus Sorensen, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is getting some good zone time.
2:40: Kevin Labanc gets too fancy and misses out on a scoring chance.
2:08: Duncan Keith headed to the box for tripping. Sharks get a chance to show what their power play can do.
1:53: Sharks can’t hold the zone. Poor start to the power play.
1:21: Lehner with the save. Hertl and Evander Kane both had chances.
0:33: Oh my. Brandon Saad headed to the box. 5-on-3 for the Sharks. To say they need to score is an understatement.
0:00: So that power play expired with no goal. On the bright side, the Sharks start the second period with a power play.
END FIRST: Sharks 0, Blackhawks 0
The Sharks showed life this period, out shooting Chicago 15-3. It’s a trend in the right direction and something to build on going into the second period, especially considering they’ll have about 1:20 of man-advantage time.
19:10: Hello folks, it’s Sie! The Sharks are starting the second on a power play and it doesn’t look particularly energetic, but that’s not necessarily a terrible thing.
18:32: Penalty killed by Chicago.
18:21: Timo Meier opens up scoring — wait, it looks like it went off Patrick Marleau’s skate? 1-0, Sharks, either way.
15:20: The Tank is dead silent. This feels very strange.
14:00: The Meier, Radil and Gregor line gets an extended look in the offensive zone, but only manage a couple of weak shots at net.
Folks, there’s an issue with the time clock, so I’ll be free wheeling it for a bit until it comes back up.
Holy shit, Martin Jones looks terrible. Chicago took their time to break into the zone, but didn’t waste any time once there to put a shot on net and Jones scrambled to cover.
12:18: Clock is back, folks!
11:01: Real good chance from Barclay Goodrow in the crease.
10:30: The Sharks are connecting passes noticeably better this period than they have of late.
9:00: The Sharks are definitely more aware of where their teammates are on the ice and they are where the need to be to get second and third chances. Just basic, simple stuff that they haven’t been pulling together consistently.
8:44: Penalty called on Meier for high sticking. Chicago to the power play with a chance to tie.
7:55: Evander Kane with a shorthanded goal between Lehner’s legs. 2-0, Sharks.
6:44: Penalty killed.
6:01: Meier and Marleau with a 2-on-1??? Ok. No dice.
3:11: Literally every time Chicago is in front of Jones, I’m just ready for this game to go in the toilet.
1:51: So the key to winning games for the Sharks is to make sure Jones never has to make a save.
END SECOND: Sharks 2, Blackhawks 0
Honestly not sure if Chicago is just so bad that it makes the Sharks look good, but given that they’ve only looked this good against Chicago and Winnipeg, I mean ... it’s probably that, right?
19:01: Chicago is still in this. 2-0 isn’t an insurmountable difference.
16:40: Sharks still making a push, as well. Glad they aren’t taking their foot off the gas.
15:47: Jones makes one good save and the Tan is playing thank u, next.
15:21: Holy shit, Meier. Hertl with the shot and Meier is there to deposit the rebound. Excellent work. 3-0, Sharks.
Whoops, looks like it’s credited to Hertl. Maybe Meier didn’t quite get his stick on it. Still, spends the same!
13:28: Andrew Shaw with a high stick on Erik Karlsson and he’s headed to the box. Sharks power play time.
11:28: Not their best effort on the man-advantage, as Chicago kills the penalty.
10:58: Marcus Sorensen called for high sticking off a face off. Chicago back to the power play.
8:58: Luckily the Chicago power play is very anemic, and the Sharks killed it off.
8:10: Sorensen almost makes it 4-0, but Lehner gets on top of the puck, pretty literally.
6:36: Ryan Carpenter is going after Mario Ferraro after Jones makes a save on Shaw. Alright, then.
4:30: Let’s wrap this up, fellas, it’s getting closer to 1 a.m. and I am big sleepy.
3:03: Very Sharks of them to give up a goal to Brandon Saad. 3-1, Sharks.
2:45: Chicago pulls Lehner.
1:54: Oh my god, of course Chicago is gonna stay in this by playing just the last five minutes. Duncan Keith makes it 3-2, Sharks.
1:36: Lehner back to the bench.
1:26: Meier in the empty net. 4-2, Sharks.
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 4, Blackhawks 2
While the Chicago Blackhawks (4-6-3) and San Jose Sharks (4-10-1) both come into tonight’s meeting in San Jose with four wins on the season, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The Sharks’ .300 point percentage is 30th in the league compared to the Hawks’ .423, which is 25th. Still, a team with as much talent as the Sharks boast should make short work of an aging, top-heavy team like Chicago, as loathe as we all should be about referring to teams like that in so many words.
Coming into Patrick Marleau’s 800th consecutive game (technically), the Sharks have lost their last five games in regulation, and are already a long shot to make the postseason in six months. A Blackhawks team on the tail end of a four game road trip on which they’ve recorded a 1-1-1 record so far could be just what the Sharks need to turn this Titanic around, but then, that’s what we all thought about the Winnipeg Jets.
It’s probably not particularly beneficial to dwell any more on San Jose’s recent troubles, so we’ll be quick: after perhaps their worst effort of the season so far in a 5-2 loss at home to the Vancouver Canucks, the Sharks are 1-6-1 in their last eight, and have been outscored 22-8 during their five game losing streak. Many of the Sharks’ hopes will hang on the substantial shoulders of Radim Simek, who returns tonight after tearing his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in a brutal injury on March 12.
While expecting Simek to turn the whole season around may be overly optimistic, his influence on the team in the past was positive. The Sharks were 12-10-5 in Montreal when Simek made his debut on December 2 last season, but between that date and his unfortunate egress from the lineup, they recorded a record of 29-9-3, the second best point percentage during that span to the Tampa Bay Lightning (because of course).
Tonight, though, Simek hasn’t played in NHL action in eight months, and we should limit our expectations. If he can play reasonably responsible hockey at the NHL level, and maintain his effort over a reasonable amount of ice time, it will count as a win in that column.
Even with Chicago’s unenviable record, they’ve been playing better as of late: their two wins in their last four games matches the total they recorded over the previous nine. Two wins in four games might be the best record a team like Chicago can sustain over the course of a full season, so this could qualify as a hot stretch. The most recent of those wins spoiled Ryan Getzlaf’s 1000th NHL game with a win in Southern California over the Anaheim Ducks as the ‘Hawks turned back the clock in overtime, with Patrick Kane tapping a backhand home from a Jonathan Toews feed.
Tonight’s game at the SAP Center is a 7 p.m. start, so don’t miss the anthem or whatever. The last time (read: the only time) a team has made the playoffs after starting the season 4-10-1, they went 6-0-1 immediately afterward. The Sharks can start that climb right now.
Simek’s return comes along with some roster blending, as one might expect. Shocking absolutely no one, Tim Heed appears to be the odd man out on the blue line, but we may also see the return of the vaunted Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Erik Karlsson pairing. In limited minutes last season, that pair of players was nothing short of dominant, so hopefully they can rekindle some of that magic. The forward corps looks promising, too, as Patrick Marleau slides down the lineup to hopefully play more sustainable minutes, and injuries to Melker Karlsson and Dylan Gambrell have forced them out of the line up entirely. Both will be missed, but it might benefit the team as a whole to take DeBoer’s favorite Karlsson out of his toy box for a night.
Hawks’ lines and pairs:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 5, 2019
There’s some young talent on this roster as it takes shape further into the season. Both Kirby Dach, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft, and Adam Boqvist, eighth overall in 2018, have shown flashes in the early parts of the season, and Dach, at least, is here to stay. More established young talent like Alex DeBrincat and William Nylander have been effective for Chicago as well, so while the ‘Hawks are clearly still building for their next run of championships some years away, they should not be taken lightly.
Where to watch
Puck drop is at SAP Center at 7 p.m. Pacific/10 p.m. Eastern. Tune in on the moving pictures rectangle in the comfort of your own home by turning the dial to NBC Sports Chicago in the windy city, or NBC Sports anywhere else in the U.S. of A. Radio calls will be on 98.5 KFOX or the Sharks + SAP Center app and streaming at NHL.tv.