Quick Bites: Ducks, Stolarz surprise Sharks
Is the third the Sharks’ new ‘worst’ period?
Anaheim Ducks goaltender Anthony Stolarz, noted Shark-killer, made 48 saves on 52 shots against the San Jose Sharks — the most shots faced in a single game of his career — to force overtime and eventually win the close contest last night. Adam Henrique, another player known for showing up against the Sharks, held the shootout dagger that opened James Reimer to put the game away. 21-year-old Trevor Zegras and 19-year-old Mason McTavish also scored in the shootout, with Nick Bonino and Kevin Labanc notching two shootout goals for San Jose.
It’s not hard to feel disappointed in the loss, as the Sharks had heavily dominated play, but ultimately extended the losing-streak to four, the past three of which were lost in the shootout. It was easily the team’s best forty minutes of play this week ... the operative word here being “forty.”
In what felt like a throwback to a week ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning, San Jose again let the game slip away from them in the waning minutes of the third period, but last night’s example comes with a primer:
The Sharks were in a great position to win a game — on a fifth power play, up 4-2, with about five minutes left in the game. As the penalty was expiring, an errant pass in the offensive zone escaped down-ice toward McTavish, who was skating out of the box. You could probably guess that he capitalized on the golden opportunity, bringing the game within one goal. Two minutes later, Henrique revived the Ducks’ chances of a win by tying the game at 4-4.
So that’s two games — and maybe more — where the Sharks have struggled to prevent goals against in the third period. It would also be nice if the power play, currently clicking at a 18.4 percent success rate, wasn’t used to set up getting scored on.
At least the team’s second period scoring woes are mostly cured. In fact, two of four goals came in the second period; from Timo Meier for his fifth of the season, and Luke Kunin on the power play. Meier and Tomas Hertl both posted three-point nights, with Hertl finally getting off the schneid and scoring after 28 days without a goal. Labanc added a goal and an assist.
McTavish and Brett Leason were standouts for Anaheim, both posting a goal and an assist on the night. Zegras, unsurprisingly, was on board for two points. And of course, it wouldn’t be a game against the Ducks without Henrique spoiling the night with that last-minute game-tying goal.
Despite Meier and Hertl finally starting to find the stitch in their game, and the Sharks playing relatively better on the whole, we’re still experiencing more heartbreak in San Jose than someone binge-listening to Taylor Swift’s greatest-hits.
Let’s see which parts of the homework the team left blank:
Erik Karlsson, You Need to Calm Down
The league-leader in points among defenders kept his streak alive with an assist, tying Craig Janney and Owen Nolan for fastest start in franchise history. Still, it’s hardly the Karlsson that we’ve grown accustomed to in the past weeks. San Jose Mercury’s Curtis Pashelka led the way in finding the humor of the situation:
Erik Karlsson has gone three shifts without a point. Clearly slumping.— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) November 6, 2022
Karlsson still looked plenty dangerous, racking up 31:17 minutes of ice-time and head-manning both power play units. The truth is, his 10 goals and 19 points in 14 games is a cadence that’s hard to maintain, especially when there’s no one in your class to help set the pace. Even if he does end up having a 90-point Norris-calibre season at the finish line, he will get there with both high- and low-production performances.
But until he gets there, and gets there safely (and without injury), the fans can do all the relaxing, especially if plays like this are considered “low-production”:
Erik Karlsson with the feed, Timo Meier with the finish. 🦈 pic.twitter.com/cU4ni5053h— NHL (@NHL) November 6, 2022
Baby, Now We’ve Got Bad Blood
The Sharks channeled most of the violence into the 52 shot-output on Stolarz, though the game wasn’t entirely without an element of animosity. By the way, the Sharks’ Matt Benning said it was all good with Zegras:
Matt Benning is ready to put the Trevor Zegras incident behind him pic.twitter.com/PB7yU4QWNY— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) November 6, 2022
But should they have let Zegras slide? He is 130 pounds, after all. Sharks forward Jonah Gadjovich answered the bell twice this game, but Zegras was mostly left to do what he wanted: he assisted on two Ducks goals. Maybe if the Ducks were preoccupied with being forced to keep a watchful eye on their stars, the Sharks could have prevented a goal, or at least the influence of a goal.
It seemed like the game plan from head coach David Quinn was to forego the nonsense from the previous match-up and focus on pummeling the Ducks’ defenses. But without the scoring expected to go along with it — as the Sharks could have had a few more goals with how many shots they put up — it made for an uneven pace to the game that left the team flat at preventing Anaheim from climbing back in the final period of regulation.
You never like to take penalties (the Sharks took three, and the Ducks eight) and of course, San Jose was chasing down the lead for most of the game, but that combined with the fact that they did not capitalize on most chances made for a bad stew that might have tasted better if someone didn’t mind mucking it up with the Ducks a bit and capitalizing on the chaos. Anything to avert misfortune.
Shake It Off
Reimer didn’t have the best outing, saving just 21 of 25 hsots and posting a .840 save percentage (SV%). To be fair to him, despite being at about eye-level with the Sharks in the standings, the Ducks are a much stronger finishing team. Case-in-point, most of the goals against last night were just great shots. Despite this, we’ll keep pulling the lever in this rotating San Jose net between Reimer, Kaapo Kahkonen and occasionally some newcomers to squeeze out the most wins.
Stolarz, on the other hand, steadied himself on — again — 48 of 52 saves for a .923 SV%. With this win under the wing, he remains great against the Sharks with a .937 SV% on 317 shots faced in nine career games against San Jose.
- Mario Ferraro left the game after blocking a shot that rode up his stick and hit his face. He did not return to the game, though it’s unclear how serious the injury was, given the nature and protocol of head injuries. With a few days off, hopefully he has a speedy recovery to be ready for the next game.
- Kunin’s power play goal was challenged by Anaheim’s bench for being offside. The goal ultimately stood, which in the moment was a controversial call: it appeared as if Sharks forward Alexander Barabanov was still on the ice as the puck crossed into the zone, but that notion was deemed inconclusive by the Situation Room. Most likely, the Sharks got away with one./
Why wasn’t Luke Kunin’s goal overturned?
- Hertl and Meier finally look like they’re back. How much has Kevin Labanc been a catalyst for that? While the top line clocked in for a total of eight points last night, Labanc did not look out of place with two of those points himself.
- Last night’s loss leapfrogged the Ducks ahead of the Sharks in the standings, effectively putting the Sharks at the bottom of the Pacific Division basement. Every day becomes easier and easier to switch my political stance to “Tank for Bedard.”/