Well, that may have been the ugliest way to win a hockey game, but the San Jose Sharks will take their two points without complaint as they continue their five-game road trip on a high note.
The Sharks were coming off of a long homestand that concluded with a bad loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, so it’s great for them to get a win early on in this trip and even better that it was against the universally hated Chicago Blackhawks.
Honestly, the Sharks didn’t look too great last night. They were out-shot, and out-chanced, hemmed into their defensive zone often, and didn’t create many quality scoring chances, with just 1.03 expected goals for (xGF) until the Blackhawks began pulling their goaltender.
James Reimer made his sixth start in seven games, as Bob Boughner trusted the netminder to lead the way despite being pulled in the second period against Toronto on Friday. It’s evident that he is the starting goaltender of the team, but expect to see Adin Hill at some point during this trip, as it includes a back-to-back.
The Sharks once again failed to help Reimer, but that didn’t stop him from saving all 29 shots that came his way, earning him his first shutout with the Sharks since coming over as a rental during the 2015-16 season, and his first shutout period since the 2019-20 campaign. He made multiple crucial stops to keep the Sharks in the game, posting 2.35 goals saved above expected (GSAx). The team has now scored two or fewer goals in nine of Reimer’s games, and yet he’s still managed a 4-4-1 record through those matches.
Some saves Reimer made were huge for the Sharks’ momentum throughout the game. One that stood out to me was a chance by Chicago defender Jujhar Khaira in the first period where Reimer made the save with the toe of his pad on Khaira, who powered his way to the net.
The Sharks faced Marc-Andre Fleury in the net, who has played well against them over the course of his career. He saved 20 of 21 shots that came his way, good for a .952 save percentage. That said, he didn’t face many quality chances — more of an average game for him.
The lone goal that was scored on a goaltender tonight came from Timo Meier, netting his eighth of the season. Logan Couture made a nice drop pass to Rudolfs Balcers who fired it on the net and the shot was redirected by Meier and past Fleury.
That goal, made possible by an incredible pass from the Cap.@MeierTimo | #SJSharks pic.twitter.com/b0dfe1lnh9— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) November 29, 2021
Another thing to note, while this game was uneventful in scoring, it was also uneventful in penalties, with just three penalties combined between the two teams, and one of them was a bench minor. The Sharks had one man-advantage and failed to score, making them 1-for-14 through their last five games. They’ll need to find a way to get special teams going.
Meier scored an empty-net goal in the dying minutes of the game, as well, marking nine goals on the season, and giving the Sharks the 2-0 cushion to hang onto and win the game.
Along with his nine goals on the season, Meier has 20 points through 16 games and is on pace for 103 points in a full 82-game season. It’s a much-needed bounce-back season for a player who struggled majorly last season.
Another player who has been great is Logan Couture. He assisted on both of Meier’s goals last night and has tallied 7 goals and 18 points this season. It’s clear that the captain has taken his game to the next level, and he and Meier have complimented each other's games well.
Defender Mario Ferraro recorded seven blocks for the second time in the last three games. He took a couple that made Sharks fans hold their breath as he grimaced in pain, but Ferraro seemed fine and played 23:31 minutes.
Forward Jonathan Dahlen returned to the line-up last night, and Jonah Gadjovich was out in favor of Noah Gregor. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes over time, as San Jose has a lot of depth pieces to choose from.
The Sharks will travel to New Jersey to take on the Devils on Tuesday.