Until the final minute of regulation, I was ready to say that a win is a win and the two points spend the same. Did the San Jose Sharks look good in tonight’s win over the Arizona Coyotes? Not really, but was I ready to write that off as them just shaking the lead out after ten months off? Of course I was, because at my core I am but a hopeful fool.
And the truth is that the Sharks really didn’t look terrible ... but they never really looked dominant either, even after leading 2-0 through the first period.
Throughout the first period, you could see Bob Boughner’s systems starting to take shape. The defenders — and particularly Erik Karlsson — were more aggressive in leading the rush, which is what we thought the Sharks were going to do in 2018 when they acquired him. Noticeably, there is more speed and jump to this team.
Seven and a half minutes into the first, Coyotes defender Niklas Hjalmarsson hooked the Sharks’ Timo Meier, who might have gotten a penalty shot if he had taken another stride or two. Instead, the Sharks went on the power play and the top power play unit made quick work of a cycle — just like that, Tomas Hertl put the Sharks on the board, 12 seconds into the man-advantage.
A few more seconds and the Sharks went back on the power play after Jakob Chychrun closed his hand around the puck. Though the penalty expired, Hertl came in again with three minutes left in the period. Evander Kane had a primary assist on both Hertl goals and John Leonard earned his first NHL assist on the second Hertl goal.
The Coyotes led the first in unblocked shots and attempts (corsi) in all situations, 22-19, but San Jose led in shots on goal 13-8. It was a tight period, but that could be expected with the Sharks’ roster as green as it is.
Unfortunately, the middle frame was tighter than it needed to be. The Sharks took a pair of penalties and Conor Garland got the Coyotes within one goal while on the power play. Corsi and shots favored the Coyotes, but eventually evened out later in the period. The Coyotes had 13 scorings chances in the middle frame, while the Sharks dropped to just five.
It wouldn’t be a Sharks game without a controversial call in the third period. Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper blatantly played the puck outside of the trapezoid and he caught a break when he ultimately didn’t get a penalty. It’s hard to argue it would’ve made a difference — the Sharks earned a power play not long after, but the Coyotes successfully killed it.
Evander Kane earned his third point of the night with a goal, making it 3-1 with half a period left to play.
Five minutes later, Clayton Keller scored.
And with four seconds left, Phil Kessel tied it, because of course.
A power play in overtime might’ve bailed out the Sharks, who took it to a goaltending faceoff, and shockingly won in the shootout.
A win is a win, sure. But we’re seeing a lot of the same old Sharks, too.
Sie’s 3 Stars
3. John Leonard, our new favorite son, who is the second Sharks player to have a multi-assist NHL debut:
John Leonard is just the second Sharks player to register a multi-assist game in his NHL debut. (Scott Hannan, 10/9/98; 0g, 2a). Fourth Sharks player with a multi-point game in his debut #SJSharks— San Jose Sharks PR (@SanJoseSharksPR) January 15, 2021
2. This tweet from the Locked on Sharks boys, which reads an awful lot like I wrote it. I didn’t, but I really truly wish I had:
If Randy is gonna drop “Joner” and “Cooch” all over the broadcast, can he at least refer to Demers as “Daddy” for us— Locked on John Leonard SZN (@LockedOnSharks) January 15, 2021
1. Tomas Hertl’s first goal, which probably gave me a worryingly large hit of dopamine: