The San Jose Sharks have a quick turnaround before they head into the holiday break. Less than 24 hours after losing 5-2 to the St. Louis Blues in another third period flop, they’re back on the ice to face the Vegas Golden Knights.
More on the Blues game in just a moment.
It’s hard to believe, but this will be the final regular season meeting between the Golden Knights (19-13-6, 2nd Pacific) and the Sharks (16-19-2, 6th Pacific but tied with the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks in points so really 7th and 8th too). There was that home and home series to start the season that Sharks fans would rather forget. San Jose was outscored 9-2 and it was the first sign that all was not well in Sharks Territory. The third meeting between the teams had a much more favorable outcome: a 2-1 overtime win with Logan Couture scoring the game winner and Aaron Dell making 37 saves, including some at key moments of the game.
This is San Jose’s chance to even the series.
While San Jose played last night, Vegas hasn’t played since Thursday night when they lost 5-4 in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks.
Vegas is 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, so this is going to be a tough test for our boys in teal who are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games.
Max Pacioretty leads the Golden Knights with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists). Five different players have more than 10 goals: Pacioretty (15), Reilly Smith (14), Mark Stone (13), Jonathan Marchessault (11), and William Karlsson (10). In goal for the Golden Knights, expect to see Marc-Andre Fleury who is 14-7-3 this season.
Though it’s not confirmed, I imagine the lines for the Sharks will be the same tonight.
Stefan Noesen’s debut as a Shark
That’s in part thanks to a fourth line that sometimes carried the Sharks in last night’s game. Stefan Noesen made his debut in a Sharks’ uniform and instantly endeared himself to the crowd.
He made some solid plays on his first shift of the game, getting a takeaway and a shot on goal. Later in the first, I saw him stand mid-ice and swat the puck into the Blues’ zone to make sure there was plenty of time to make the change. It wasn’t until the puck went the full 200 feet before he skated off to change himself.
Then in the second period, he sniped a goal to tie the game.
Noesen scores his first goal as a Shark pic.twitter.com/QQT5j3qzjm— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) December 22, 2019
Apparently, this is something Noesen does a lot when he comes to a new team, especially against the Blues. Noesen scored in his first game with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 4. Amusingly, it was also against the St. Louis Blues.
Joel Kellman’s first NHL game
Playing along Noesen was Kellman (pronounced Shell-man for those of you wondering). It was the rookie’s first NHL game and I think he handled himself admirably.
Kellman, Noesen and Melker Karlsson formed the Sharks’ fourth line and at certain points of the game it was the team’s best line. According to Natural Stat Trick, the trio had 8:19 of ice time last night and 69.21 percent corsi for at score- and venue-adjusted 5-on-5 play.
Kellman did not look sensational, but he looked solid in his first NHL outing and that’s a good start.
Jake Allen vs. Martin Jones
But the real story of the night had to be the battle between Jake Allen and Martin Jones, or perhaps, the battle that wasn’t. Allen was sensational for the Blues, making the stops that he should have and then making some that he shouldn’t have as well.
Allen finished the night with 34 saves and a .944 save percentage.
On the other side of the ice, Jones was not as solid. The netminder made some quality stops, but he also let in some goals that should have been stopped, such as this one that tied the game at one apiece.
And then there was the dagger that broke up a tie score with less than nine minutes left in the game.
Was it just the goaltending?
With the way Jones played last night, I would not be surprised to see Dell in net tonight. The Sharks out-shot the Blues 36 to 28 and they out-chanced the Blues 35 to 20. What’s more, they dominated possession for most of the game.
When you look at 5-on-5 corsi (score-and venue-adjusted), you see that the game looked like it should have gone the Sharks way.
Allen’s hot goaltending aside, the Sharks had their chances and could not capitalize. What’s more, Jones let a few weak ones in and San Jose was once again on the losing end.
Brent Burns is off the schneid
To the power play we go, where there were a few positives and plenty of negatives.
For one thing, Brent Burns finally scored.
It’s a good thing too because as Sheng Peng tells us, this was Burns’ first goal since Nov. 14 in Anaheim.
Burns's first goal in over a month (11/14 @ Anaheim)— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) December 22, 2019
Power play problems
Now to the bad. The Sharks went one for three on the power play last night. That’s not too bad when you look at the numbers until you realize that the final power play, with the goalie pulled for part of it, led to a shorthanded goal instead of a game-t-tying one.
To make matters worse, the Sharks have scored exactly two goals on the power play since Nov. 19, including last night’s goal.
On Dec. 9, Sheng Peng took a look at what’s going wrong with the Sharks power play. Some changes have been implemented since then and they’re still trying to figure things out. Sheng noticed some of them on the ice last night.
Maybe no big deal, Burns might have just opted for power play double-shift, but no Thornton on #SJSharks PP2. It's a good switch by Burns though, to go from one-timer spot on PP1 to up top on PP2 pic.twitter.com/VumyLf3UzS— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) December 22, 2019
I don’t expect to see anything fixed tonight against the Golden Knights, but I imagine it will be one of the first things worked on during the holiday break. The power play is a major issue for this team right now and with the penalty kill regressing — San Jose allowed a power play goal against last night — they need the power play now more than ever.