Quick Bites: Sharks find some footing in Glendale
After a rough November, the Sharks’ mini-road trip shows positive signs.
The first period last night felt like another sleepy affair. The Sharks’ goal in the first period, while at the end of a flurry of shots, came with the Sharks playing a rather unthreatening game otherwise. Erik Karlsson sent a pass across the zone that rebounded off the boards and managed to settle in time for Brenden Dillon to fling it toward the net. Joe Pavelski got his stick blade on it and the puck bounced the right way. Indeed, both of the Sharks’ first two goals were indicative of a few things: eventually, shot volume and shot share should win out; there is plenty of luck involved in scoring goals; and, even if stretch passes and risky-looking plays don’t always work, they are the types of things that help influence Lady Luck’s decisions.
When the first period bell sounded, San Jose walked into the dressing room having taken 68 percent of all 5-on-5 shots, after adjusting for score and venue. They generated nearly 62 percent of all scoring chances to accompany that shot-differential advantage, seeming to wake themselves up midway through the first frame.
In an against-the-grain occurrence, Justin Braun opened the game with a solid period. It seemed he was more willing to take chances on breakouts—his stretch pass led eventually to Logan Couture’s goal—a side of him that has been dormant most of the season.
The Coyotes’ second period goals were both, perhaps, predictable. Their power play goal came against a Sharks team whose goaltenders (again) have bailed out their otherwise ineffective penalty kill. The even-strength goal came as San Jose fell back asleep in the second period, controlling a less impressive share of the 5-on-5 shots and scoring chances. The mechanism of the Coyotes' second goal, however, was anything but routine. After a shot from the high slot, the puck ricocheted off a few people before finding its way into the back of the net.
After a thoroughly boring first period, the second was a gongshow display, one unsynchronized swatting of puck after another. Despite Arizona’s two-goal period and frightening flurry at the end of the period, San Jose left the ice having tightened its grip on the game.
Braun fell back to earth in the second period, sinking down the list of Sharks’ skaters’ shot differentials. Joe Thornton continued his transcendent 39-year-old season, and things seemed generally peachy and mostly explainable.
In the third period, we were reminded of just how fickle a lead (or anything, really) in hockey can be. A Joonas Donskoi drop pass in the offensive zone led to a free-skating Richard Panik the other way, and a normally-solid Aaron Dell let what seemed like the Sharks’ last glimmer of desert hope slip between his knees.
Despite the late misgivings, the Sharks were generally the better team last night. They ended the evening with far and away more shots, scoring chances, and expected goals than their counterparts.
- Lukas Radil’s goal was awesome and came at the end of a scintillating performance by the fourth line. Unfortunately, since DeBoer isn’t likely to ever sit Melker Karlsson, Radil’s good game likely means more press box time for Antti Suomela.
- Aaron Dell, who has been solid as a backup goaltender the past few seasons, had an uncharacteristically poor game. While one of the goals almost certainly wasn’t his fault, the five-hole squeaker was one he’d like to have back. According to Evolving Hockey, Dell’s save percentage on unblocked shots was 4.3 percent below expected. He saved 1.39 goals fewer than expected.
- The fourth line and the beard/ageless Joe Thornton had excellent games. All four players were on the ice for at least 80 percent of all score- and venue-adjusted shots at 5-on-5. /