Sharks 3, Stars 4: Big L in Big D

Thornton’s 1500th game is one to forget.

It was a night filled with nostalgia for Joe Thornton’s 1500th career game.  Sadly, the game was ultimately forgettable as another example this season of Shark possession dominance undone by puck carelessness and a few defensive lapses.

While the plays do not stick out in stats, especially when possession seemed so strong anyway, the amount of no-look or behind the back passes to no-one or worse, coupled with soft clears or nonchalance with the puck were hard to miss. This is a case of good possession numbers overall hiding some of the key issues with the Sharks’ possession game.

On the flip side, Martin Jones’ play was exposed on the scoresheet, even though he made quite a few clutch saves to keep the Sharks in it. Still, it was also hard to watch that game and think that Jones’ inconsistent greatness equaled good overall, with four goals against on 22 shots, two of which making Devin Shore look like a world-class sniper.

Shore started the scoring at 8:57 of the first period going top-shelf, short-side on Jones who seemed set on the bad-angle shot but still gave up the corner.  It was a great shot to be sure, but at that angle and with Jones covering, more questionable.

14:18 of the first turned into Timo Time, as Labanc sent a beautiful pass right to Timo’s stick crashing the crease.  Timo had two Stars on him and powered through, beating both with equal parts speed and brawn to tie the game.

Early in the second, Dillon sent an unfortunate pass back to his defensive partner that was too slow, picked off by Tyler Seguin, and deposited past Jones to return the Stars to a lead.

Just over a minute later, the Stars’ fourth line would convert a neutral zone turnover into a rush and into a tic-tac-toe passing play goal right around the Sharks defense to put the Stars back up 3-1.

At 11:17 of the second period, amid the Sharks piling on the pressure, Brent Burns sent a hard cross-zone pass to Joe Pavelski, who had been knocked to one knee a few feet out from the net. Joe kept his stick down and does what he does, tipping the pass into the net to pull the Sharks back within one.

Evander Kane nearly whiffed on a wrist shot at 7:46 of the third period, but what little he caught of the puck was enough, as it crawled into the net behind Anton Khudobin while he slid right by. It tied the game and gave the Sharks a major boost for around seven minutes, until a bouncing puck ended up on Devin Shore’s stick and then by Martin Jones, restoring the Dallas Stars’ lead. The Stars clamped down on the neutral zone from there and while the effort was made to tie it again, the Sharks didn’t get too many quality looks.

Ultimately, the Sharks were chasing the game from the first goal on. While there were some clear positives (possession again and Erik Karlsson’s rising moxy), the Sharks just never quite caught up.


The Sharks come into tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars with only eight wins in 15 games, but their 19 points sits them tied for fourth in the NHL (with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks). It would seem that if the Sharks can attain this moderate level of success with so many parts of their game mired in severe inconsistency, then their ceiling once everything is clicking may know few bounds.

After closing out the home stand with two wins that showcased both inconsistent play and the Sharks’ ability to will themselves to victory, San Jose hits the road for a quick two games starting tonight in Dallas, where the Stars are 5-2 at home so far this season. Generally speaking, the Stars find themselves in the bottom third of the league in Corsi for per 60 while the Sharks continue excellence there.

Interestingly, the Stars and Sharks seem to have nearly inverse relationships in most relative team metrics:

The big storylines tonight (on top of seeing if the Sharks can continue to build some momentum) will be the line combos used with Tomas Hertl still out, and Joe Thornton playing in his 1500th NHL game while sitting on 399 career goals. Jumbo will continue to play with Marcus Sorenson and Barclay Goodrow, a line that had sustained surprising successes last game. It would be great to see Jumbo score that magic marker in a milestone game, while elevating the Sharks’ bottom-six to a whole new level.


The lineup should look familiar to all who watched the last game. Pete DeBoer’s Line Blender™ has produced some odd combinations, but these seemed to work against the Minnesota Wild, at least in stretches.  While seeing Joonas Donskoi and Antti Suomela separated breaks our heart, it certainly creates match up troubles down in the lineup.

In net tonight, the Sharks will look to Martin Jones, and it will be interesting to see which version of him shows up, and for how long.

Sean Shapiro of the Athletic reports likely forward line combos for the Stars as:

Of note, Denis Gurianov, the Stars’ 2015 first-round draft pick, was called up and will play his first game of the season, and second of his career. Gurianov had just 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) in 74 games in the AHL last year, but has 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) in 11 games so far this year.

Gurianov will be starting alongside Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza on the second line. For now the Benn/Seguin duo will remain separated. While this distributes talent for the Stars, it likely helps the Sharks avoid some potential match up trouble. Tyler Seguin may have 14 points in 15 games, but he has only three goals and hasn’t scored since the third game of the season. If the lines above look rather thin, it may be because both Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal are both out with injuries.

According to Shapiro, defensive pairs are likely to be:

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Dillon Heatherington - Julius Honka

Yes that’s San Jose castoff Roman Polak anchoring the Stars’ second D-pairing (emphasis on anchor). I’m not sure Polak is still an NHL defenseman, much less a top-4, but good on the ex-Shark for getting the minutes.

Dallas’ backup goaltender Anton Khudobin will be between the pipes for the Stars.

And here’s one last look at the head-to-head match up:

Tonight’s game will be broadcast on NBCSCA and the radio call will be on 98.5 KFOX. Puck drop is at 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET.

Check back then for live reactions and commentary.

Happy Thursday Shark fans. GDub here to watch the game with you all and provide thoughts and commentary on the proceedings. Excited to see if the Sharks can continue to build momentum after two inconsistent (but exciting!) wins to finish the home-stand. I look forward to the questions and conversation below.

First Period

Pre-game thought: Jumbo Joe Thornton needs one goal for 400 goals. Both Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns need are sitting on 399 career assists. Is a Karlsson to Burns to Thornton goal too much to ask for? Hockey gods, make this happen.

20:00: Puck is down, here we go!

18:13: A few whistles already. Decent chance by Dallas just now with Jones making a positional stop. Dillon called for a two-minute boarding penalty. Sharks’ 3rd ranked PK will go against the 11th ranked PP of Dallas.

15:58: Several big hits by Dallas as Benn trucks Sorensen and then Pavs gets popped as he crosses into the zone. The Pavs hit was hockey, the Sorensen hit was borderline charging. The PP ends with only one shot but a flurry right as the PP ended.

13:55: Dillon off the pipe. Sharks starting to really press the Stars now.

13:25: Random observation: Am I the only one that hears “Goldobin” every time they say “Khudobin”? I am? Ok, thanks.

12:58: A flurry of shots by Dallas, a flurry of saves by Jones. He’s playing well positionally at the moment.

12:00: Erik Karlsson almost gets sprung on a break, then nearby as rebound sits. Yes, we’d like him to score soon.

11:03: Devin Shore snipes high blocker on Jones from a suspect angle. Goal Dallas.

Sharks 0, Stars 1

08:40: The Sharks keep up a bunch of zone pressure without any real control. Lots of keep-ins at the line and good hustle, but not much space to really get set up.

05:42: After a display from Erik Karlsson that showed that he’s REALLY ready to get a goal, Couture to Labanc to Timo Meier slams it home for a GOAL San Jose Sharks. Meier always going to the net, always with his stick on the ice. That Kevin Labanc has some solid vision. Great play. Meier’s 12th.

Sharks 1, Stars 1

03:48: Erik Karlsson sure has some swagger tonight. He’s got fire in his game tonight. Hard to think the Stars are going to keep him off the scoresheet if he keeps this up.

00:00: Horn blows. Period 1 is in the books.

San Jose Sharks 1, Dallas Stars 1

First Intermission: Shots on goal are 12-8 Sharks and they have been largely controlling game flow if not exactly play. They are spending plenty of time with the puck, pounding the Stars in Corsi-For% with the Sharks at 61.54%. It is interesting too, because we aren’t watching the Sharks pass around in a setup zone as much as we are watching them keeping the puck in the zone and winning puck battles with hustle, while also hitting Dallas in waves in transition.

Despite the possession numbers, Dallas hasn’t been a doormat in this one. They too have had a good breakout and too many clean zone entries. Their transition game has been solid too. Far and away the standout mentionable from period one, for me, is Erik Karlsson though. He’s a man on fire and has largely dominated play when on the ice.

Second Period

20:00: Puck dropped for Period 2. Here we go!

19:42: Hedican points out on TV that Karlsson looks to be playing on instinct tonight. I agree. He has definitely seemed to be overthinking as he adapts to his new team, teammates, and surroundings. Tonight he just looks like a great hockey player playing great hockey.

18:24: Burns with two horrific turnovers in a row but Jones bails him out.

17:29: Karlsson with 4 SOG so far, at least that many shots blocked I’d guess.

15:40: I really like the Thornton line. Joe is showing his value as a player who may beyond his direct contribution years, but his biggest asset may be how much better he makes everyone around him. Taking a player like him and elevating two players in your bottom six not only turns an otherwise depth line dangerous, it makes the young players playing with him better players. Those dividends could extend well beyond a single game, especially for a player like Sorensen.

13:03: Brenden Dillon floats a slow back-pass to his defensive partner which Seguin picks up and walks down mainstreet for a point blank shot on Jones. Goal. Seguin breaks his drought.

Sharks 1, Dallas 2

12:18: Turnover then quick neutral zone transition turns into a 3-on-2 tic-tac-toe nice play by the Stars’ 4th line. It’s a goal that ends with Gemel Smith tapping it in behind a hapless Jones. The 4th line looking like 1st-liners on that one.

Sharks 1, Stars 3

09:14: Chartier can’t bury a breakaway. Would have liked to have seen that one go in. Sharks need to get the next one.

08:43: I was saying? Jumbo, Pavs, and Kane back on a line together ends with a Jumbo to Burns to Pavs for the tip GOAL Sharks. Pavelski tips that from one knee after getting hammered in front. Great pass by Burns.

Sharks 2, Stars 3

08:13: Faksa sticks Meier in the chin, draws blood. Sharks get 4 minutes of PP time. Haven’t been on a power play for a while, eh?

04:13: That was 4 minutes of power play time with no whistle. Lots of chances, some decent setup in the zone, lots of one-and-done chances though. No goals. Back to 5v5.

02:45: This period has flown by. Sharks at 67.74 CF% for the frame. Shots are 25-14 San Jose. Lots of chances. They just need to keep the pedal down.

01:17: Benn gets a breakaway, Karlsson fell down trying to get back, Jones waits him out with a nice save.

00:00: Horn sounds. Period 2 over. Dallas had quite a few flurries in the final minute. Jones up to the task.

Sharks 2, Stars 3

Second Intermission: CF% fell for the Sharks with that final push by Dallas, currently sitting at 62.5% for the game (ended up at 59.26% for the 2nd period). Sharks had lots of pep that period, but also got a bit too careless with the puck, and in some cases a bit too fancy. It’s a fine line between confidence and carelessness. Let’s see if the Sharks can keep pressing while taking care of the puck in the 3rd.

Third Period

20:00: Puck down for the third.  Go Sharks!

18:47: Randy and Hedican pointing out that Burns and Karlsson are combined for 18 shot attempts tonight (10 SOG combined).

17:00: PDB Line Blender™ engaged with some throwback looks. Thornton with Pavs now.  Kane with Suomela and Donskoi. Defensive pairs are all over the place.

16:18: Timo with three chances in a row. He is a monster when on the ice right now.

15:15: Stars with another penalty, Sharks back to a big Power play.

13:56: After giving up a shorthanded breakaway to Seguin which was stopped (thank you Martin Jones), Sharks get a few chances, the last by Burns from the low slot. Sharks take their timeout. Just heard that John Klingberg went back to the Stars’ dressing room after blocking a shot.

13:15: Power play ends without a whole lot of pressure. Sharks get a rush and some zone time immediately after the penalty expires, but to no avail.

12:14: Evander Kane finally gets a goal on a 10 m.p.h. shot produced from a whiff. It was so slow that Khudobin actually slid faster than it did and it slid right behind him. No matter. GOAL Sharks! First goal for Kane in a month.

Sharks 3, Stars 3

09:37: Lots of pressure for the Sharks now. Lots of chances. They have definitely grabbed the momentum after that tying goal. Sharks sitting at 86.67% CF for the period thus far.

05:47: After a bunch of nondescript back and forth, a few good shots for the Sharks’ 4th line, then the Stars come back and get a few bounces around the net that end up on Shore’s stick. Goal Stars. Jones looked lost on that play. I can only think that he lost sight of the puck because he went down and just stayed there, even after the puck scooted over to Shore from the left side.

Sharks 3, Stars 4

01:00: Lots of time where the Sharks were just trying to get something going, before Jumbo gets a breakaway, a shot to get number 400 and tie the game. Khudobin shuts down the five-hole try. Dallas has clamped down the neutral zone and it has been effective.

00:00: Buzzer sounds. Game over. Sharks had some pressure not any clean looks in the closing minute. This one is in the books.

Final: San Jose Sharks 3, Dallas Stars 4