Jabber Jaws: Boughner on defense, power play
With defensive coverage an ongoing issue, the return of Sharks’ power play success and changes on defense improve the team’s playoff chances.
Timo Meier’s five-goal night was a historic achievement none of us will be forgetting anytime soon. While goal-scoring was the focus of the San Jose Sharks’ last game, versus the Los Angeles Kings, there were some quiet successes elsewhere in the line-up, namely the power play, and defense.
Prior to the tilt against the LA Kings, the Sharks’ power play had languished in the standings, three points below the league average, and the team was searching for any way to revitalize special teams, to the point that both Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns were placed together on the top power play unit for only the second time in recent games against the Kings. Burns and Karlsson typically occupy the same position on the power play; they’re both dominant defensemen who prefer the top position rather than the flank, which is why when they had been paired together in the past, it rarely worked.
But with Karlsson able to float either position, and Burns feeling more comfortable at the top, the first power play unit finally found success, complete with two of Meier’s five goals coming on the power play.
Defense too had a new look. The defensive zone struggles are well-documented, but Radim Simek and Nicolas Meloche were healthy-scratched to make room for an unlikely defensive corps of Ryan Merkley, Jake Middleton, Jaycob Megna, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and of course, Burns, Karlsson and Mario Ferraro.
Plus, James Reimer’s first game back after missing a few weeks due to a lower-body injury left room for plenty of storylines alongside Meier’s historic night. The positive trends showcased in the power play, defense and goal-tending are important takeaways, as the Sharks seek to stay in the playoff hunt.
On Reimer’s return: They’re a team that has a lot of big bodies that get to the net and crash hard, so he had to deal with some traffic. For his first game back after a few weeks off, I thought that Reimer battled hard and helped us in the first period.
On the Sharks’ defense: I thought that a lot of those guys had strong games. Mario [Ferraro] and Burnzie [Brent Burns] against [Anze] Kopitar, that’s a good match-up for those guys, and I thought they played well. Karly [Erik Karlsson] moved pucks, he had three or four assists, and he was a catalyst for our offense especially, playing on that Hertl line.
On the team effort: Everybody chipped in, everybody was solid. We didn’t have any weak links today, and I thought we played as a team, we played physical, we got to roll our four lines, and everybody helped.
On the power play turning a corner: I loved our power play last game, [although] I know it didn’t get us anything. We had good puck movement, we’re moving it around, we’re not dusting it, we’re shooting pucks, we’ve got that shooting mentality and we’ve started to win in face-offs. So, I think that our power play has turned a corner, and hopefully, we’ll see some more results like we did tonight.
On the importance of the power play: We’ve been talking about it [the power play] a lot. We gave up some goals, which can happen in this league. Especially in the second half of the season, we need special teams to be really good, because when it’s a tied game they can be game-changers. It was really nice to score right away in the first, and then one more on the power play.
On differences to the power play: We scored some goals, I think that’s the biggest one. The first goal is a good power play goal. We’re not really in our positions but we found a way to hit that seam and Timo had an open net and he put it away. The second goal, it wasn’t necessarily the best time to shoot the puck, but today if you wore number 28, you shoot everything and it was a great shot. So I think, overall, from the last game, we moved the puck well, and we created some good chances and took some good shots, and today it paid off.
*Lightly edited for clarity.