Avalanche 2, Sharks 5: Depth display powers Sharks to series lead

<em>It’s not fair to play Joe Thornton against third-liners.</em>

A lot of the narrative surrounding tonight’s series opener was dominated by the idea of momentum, and how although both teams had it, they found themselves in very different positions.

The Colorado Avalanche came in freshly rested, off of a four-game win streak and five-game series upset against the top seeded Calgary Flames. They looked great to finish the year, and didn’t skip a beat in the post-season, earning themselves a week of rest before playing their next series.

The San Jose Sharks came in riding a three-game win streak, riding the high of one of, if not the most emotional win in their franchise’s history with their game seven triumph over the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Their series was long, physically punishing, and did I mention, emotional? So emotional, in fact, coach Peter Deboer expressed concerns his club would be tired coming into this game, “taxed emotionally.”

They weren’t. Or if they were, they got a hefty refund early in the second.

Although the Sharks got out-shot, out-possessed, and generally out-played in the first period, something that can largely be attributed to their physical weariness and the fresh legs of the Avalanche, they went into the intermission in a tie game, largely due to the stellar goaltending of Martin Jones, who has not regressed since his incredible games five, six, and seven of last series. The game’s turning point, however, wasn’t the intermission, although the Sharks were visibly sharper afterwards. It was a penalty kill, a double minor following a high-stick and a bloody nose. Following the successful kill, emotional catalyst Joe Thornton scored a pretty goal on an odd-man rush with line mate Marcus Sorensen, and the momentum swung.

Fortunately for the Sharks, it never swung back.

San Jose got excellent play from their forwards, particularly their line of Sorensen-Thornton-Labanc, with Labanc tallying a goal later in the second period, and that group driving play that led to Brent Burns’ score. Colorado had no answers for the depth of the Sharks, and were chasing the rest of the game, both on the scoreboard and the ice.

Defensively, the Sharks limited Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen, which is not an easy task, and goaltending slammed the door.

They couldn’t have asked for a better result, and now lead the series 1-0.

Game two is Sunday at 4:30pm PST in San Jose.

First Period:

20:00: The Shark head has descended from the rafters, Sharks alumni Douglas Murray and Devin Setoguchi have opened the doors, and the puck has been dropped! Game one is underway!

19:19: Nathan Mackinnon with a nice place breaking out of the neutral zone; nothing came of it, but you can see why he’s so dangerous.

17:50: Gabriel Bourque makes it 1-0 early, redirecting a juicy rebound past Martin Jones. No reason to panic though!

17:00: The Avalanche get caught with too many men on the ice, and the Sharks head to the power play.

15:28: Philipp Grubauer with a nice stop early. The Sharks had traffic in front of the net, but can’t tuck one past the Colorado net minder.

14:06: Jones comes up with a beautiful save on Nikita Zadorov! It’s nice to see Jones respond to his early goal allowed like that, has to be good for his confidence.

12:27: Brent Burns jumps up into the rush and fires a wicked wrist shot at Grubauer. You can already see the systemic difference between playing Vegas and Colorado; the Sharks are not missing lanes being constantly clogged with sticks, passes are completing at a much higher rate so far. Lots of open ice chances for both teams early.

8:10: Jones is forced to make another nice save; Colorado winning the shot differential battle early.

6:23: Lukas Radil deflects an Erik Karlsson blast from the blue line, and we almost have a tie game.

5:30: Martin Jones comes up with a HUGE save on Carl Soderberg right in front of the net! Soderberg was alone in the paint, but Jones extended the pad and denied him.

5:16: Gustav Nyquist with the game tying goal! Burns deserves credit for creating this one; he takes the puck, right off the face-off, drives in, and puts a puck on net that Nyquist skillfully keeps away from a poke-checking Grubauer and tucks home.

3:35: Mikko Rantanen, in a flash of brilliance, turns Burns around one on one and scores for Colorado! There was, however, a distinct kicking motion, and this one will be looked at. Rantanen didn’t even celebrate after scoring, looks like he knows it was a kick.

3:35: Following a quick review, it’s called no goal!

1:55: Soderberg denied on a breakaway! Jones, despite having allowed a goal, has been phenomenal to start the series.

END FIRST: Avalanche 1, Sharks 1

The play of Jones and Tomas Hertl has been the story thus far. Jones has been tested early and often, and has risen to the occasion, while Hertl’s stellar play in the last series has carried over; he’s absolutely dominant on the puck.

Second Period:

20:00: We’re back for the second period in San Jose!

17:25: Things have tightened up a bit since last period; it’s not the track meet it was before.

17:14: Dylan Gambrell gets called for a trip on Tyson Jost.

16:04: Colorado cashes in on the power play! Mikko Rantanen sends a beautiful pass to and off of the stick of Colin Wilson, and the Avalanche jump out to a 2-1 lead.

15:04: Brendan Dillon catches JT Compher with a high-stick; Compher’s nose is visibly bleeding, this’ll be a double minor. Avalanche to the power play for four minutes, big test for the Sharks here.

13:02: The Sharks survive the first penalty. Two minutes to go on the penalty kill.

11:37: Logan Couture gets his stick in the passing lane of Rantanen and makes a timely pass break up. Solid penalty kill for the Sharks.

9:55: Marcus Sorensen and Joe Thornton break out on a two on zero, Sorensen feeds Thornton, and he rips it home for the tying goal! It’s 2-2!

7:35: Ian Cole swats away a puck on its way into the back of the net as Colorado catches a break. The Sharks have found their legs, and since scoring, have been flying.

3:58: Kevin Labanc just put Mikko Rantanen on a poster. WOW. Labanc comes into the zone,  effortlessly evades Rantanen, and fires a laser past Grubauer. 3-2, the Sharks with their first lead of the night!

1:00: Brent Burns cashes in! The Sharks extend their lead, 4-2. That chance was largely created by the dominating Thornton-Sorensen-Labanc group, but it’s Burns getting credit for the goal, which bounced off of Cale Makar.

END SECOND: Avalanche 2, Sharks 4

Third Period:

20:00: The Sharks look to close out Nathan Mackinnon and the Avalanche as we start the third period.

15:30: The Sharks have really been coming for Colorado on the forecheck to start the third. It’s working, and the Avalanche haven’t gotten any ‘grade A’ looks yet.

13:35: Timo Meier deflects a shot from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and it’s off the post. Too early for it to be a dagger (as Vegas learned), but it would certainly would have taken some pressure off.

11:36: Brent Burns lays out to prevent Tyson Barrie from hitting a wide open Mackinnon with a pass! Great defensive effort from both Burns and Timo Meier on the play.

6:32: Grubauer loses his stick, and the Sharks swarm. After sustained pressure of about twenty seconds, a puck deflects off a Colorado player’s skate and into the glove of Grubauer.

4:30: The Avalanche coming with a significant push. Mackinnon and company have had a few more than decent chances in the last thirty seconds or so.

2:30: The Avalanche pull their goalie for the extra attacker.

1:35: The Sharks are keeping Grubauer trapped in the net.

1:00: Icing called on Barclay Goodrow, and Colorado calls their timeout. Key face-off coming up in the San Jose zone.

:28: Timo Meier sends the puck down the ice and scores in the empty net! 5-2 Sharks, and that one is the dagger!

FINAL SCORE: Avalanche 2, Sharks 5


If you’re looking for a more comprehensive preview of this sultry second-round series between the purple people eaters and the totally teal under water characters, we have plenty of content for you. We’ve broken down the San Jose Sharks offense vs. the Colorado Avalanche defense, the Avs offense against the Sharks defense, a look at whether Martin Jones has turned a corner or not, and just exactly how the Sharks can (try to) stop Nathan MacKinnon.

If you’re interested in brushing up on a brief history of this season’s matchup ahead of Game 1, you’re in the right place. In three contests this regular season, San Jose won each and every game, a potentially good omen. In what was typical of San Jose Sharks games this season, each was a high-scoring affair: No game was decided with fewer than seven total goals.

During a 5-4 victory in Colorado in January, Justin Braun was injured and the Sharks skated most of the game with just five defenders. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns did an admiral job limiting the potent MacKinnon—Mikko Rantanen—Gabriel Landeskog line in the shot department. Avalanche head coach, Jared Bednar didn’t employ much, if any line matching during the game. Bednar’s skater deployment against the Calgary Flames during the teams’ first-round series suggests he might be more open to homing in on certain San Jose units when the series shifts to Colorado.

For now, however, we—and both teams—are still in the Bay Area, where Sharks bench boss Pete DeBoer has yet to ease back into his line-matching ways. Games 1 and 2 were a bit of a mess. During Game 5, DeBoer was mostly content to match strength to strength. It was only during the pivotal (and wild beyond belief) Game 7 that the coaching staff opted for some old-fashioned hard matching. The Burns—Vlasic pair, combined with Logan Couture and Timo Meier saw the Paul Stastny—Mark Stone duo most of the evening, whereupon they did an admiral job.

DeBoer was content to allow Joe Thornton and his large adult sons take their licks against Vegas’ excellent third pair. The plan didn’t work out so well given the Knights’ mostly superior performance at 5-on-5 that game, but their goals weren’t exactly in the heat of flurries of shots, either. With a shallower forward corps, it is likely we will see much more attention paid MacKinnon and his pals than any other of the forward lines this team has to offer. The only question is if all that ado about the Colorado first line leads to some leaky line changes against some of the team’s lesser-(known) skaters.

The first game in any series is often a feeling-out moment, but we can be almost certain of the Sharks’ coaches focal point tonight. How well the team can limit the Avs’ superstar center will go a long way to deciding this game and, likely, the series.



Expected Scratches: Joe Pavelski (day-to-day), Micheal Haley, Joonas Donskoi, a whole host of Black Aces


Gabriel Landeskog—Nathan MacKinnon—Alexander Kerfoot
Colin Wilson—Carl Soderberg—Mikko Rantanen
Matt Calvert—J.T. Compher—Matthew Nieto
Tyson Jost—Derick Brassard—Gabriel Bourque

Samuel Girard—Erik Johnson
Nikita Zadorov—Tyson Barrie
Cale Makar—Ian Cole

Philipp Grubauer
Semyon Varlamov

Expected Scratches: Mark Barberio, Vladislav Kamenev, Patrik Nemeth, Sven Andrighetto

Where to Watch

Puck drop will be at 7:00 p.m. Pacific / 10:00 p.m. Eastern from the Shark Tank AKA Sap Center. The game will be broadcast on television on NBC Sports, SportsNet, CBC, and TVA Sports. You can catch the radio call at 98.5 KFOX and use the Sharks app.

Check back in for puck drop in a bit and we can discuss the merits of leaving Ivan Chekhovich in the weight room all summer.