Sharks one win away from tying season high winning streak after beating St. Louis 4-1
Hey, a two game win streak isn't anything to sneeze at this season. And we're going to celebrate it as such, even as we serve it up with a little side dish of snark.
In what was expected to be a physical affair after Joe Thornton's controversial hit on David Perron last month, tonight's 4-1 victory lived up to the hype. Ryane Clowe, Jamal Mayers, and Scott Nichol all dropped the gloves in the first period against the Blues, and the two teams combined for 61 hits on the night.
Logan Couture (x2), Devin Setoguchi, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic added tallies for San Jose, and David Backes converted on a penalty shot for St. Louis. Antero Niittymaki had 21 saves in the win.
Couture continued to do exactly what he does best-- driving to the front of the net and capitalizing on that hard work. His two goals tonight were a microcosm of his young and promising career, with deflections off his stick and leg finding their way past Jaroslav Halak into the back of the Blues net. Devin Setoguchi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic would also continue to find their scoring touch, jamming home a rebound and rifling one into the far corner respectively.
San Jose continued where they left off against Dallas on Thursday, dominating the shot clock and controlling the majority of the game. Outside of the second period the Blues didn't generate many scoring opportunities, and Antero Niittymaki's solid play that saw him direct rebounds to the outside tied in nicely with the Sharks ability to control the tempo of the game by forcing the Blues wingers to the outside of the defensive zone. Credit goes to San Jose defensively tonight-- they blocked nearly as many shots (14) as they allowed on net (22).
The best line tonight had to be Pavelski-Setoguchi-McGinn, who hounded the banged up Blues along the boards for the entirety of the contest. All three players have had resurgences as of late, and have shown flashes of being an extremely dangerous line for the Sharks if McLellan continues to spread his scoring depth amongst his top nine forwards. They've been strong defensively and relentless offensively, a formidable combination of physicality (McGinn), playmaking touch (Pavelski), and goal scoring (Setoguchi). Keep an eye out for them to take on some more responsibility if Marleau, Thornton, and Heatley continue to put middling offensive numbers up on the board.
I thought McLellan did a very effective job of balancing out his ice time tonight, with no forward receiving more than 16 minutes at evens during the game. It may be due to the fact that San Jose was able to control the tempo from the get go, but an ability to consistently roll three lines is something any Head Coach likes to have in his pocket. The Sharks barely touched their fourth line, as Benn Ferriero (9:04), Jamal Mayers (6:40), and Scott Nichol (5:20) all saw dips in their seasonal averages. I thought Mayers and Nichol were more deserving of ice time compared to Ferriero, who was relatively invisible except in the defensive end, but that's probably nitpicking when neither of them had any considerable impact on the game.
David Perron remained out of the lineup again tonight, making it a month long hiatus after Thornton's hit rattled his cage. Perron returned in the matchup to score the game winning goal in that tilt, causing many fans, bloggers, and broadcasters (Jamie Baker) to question whether or not he was diving and embellishing his injury. Baker has since humbly apologized for his comments, acknowleding his wrongdoing, but for the rest of those individuals who played the delicate game of accusing Perron of diving like a swan without full knowledge of his injuries, tonight should be a good indication that a brief perusal of Wikipedia for your head trauma information isn't in your best interest lest you end up spouting off like a gardenhose.
Niittymaki was solid tonight despite giving up a penalty shot goal that caught him off guard debating whether to drop to the butterfly and take away the five hole or stay upright for a wrist shot up high. It was a goal that shouldn't take away from his solid play tonight however-- whether or not he or Niemi will eventually take the reigns between the pipes for the Sharks is a fools errand considering a tandem is what the organization has clearly outlined for the remainder of the season. Both netminders are prone to inconsistency, and will continue to split the bulk of starts in bunches for the rest of the year.
San Jose returns home to play Edmonton on Tuesday night, beginning a three game homestand against the Oilers, Coyotes, and Kings. Two of those teams are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, making it a great opportunity for the Sharks to put some distance between themselves and their rivals.
And although a two game winning streak is nothing to sneeze at this season, one would hope San Jose has something a little more in them as we make our way towards the New Year. If they're going to begin and establish some consistency before the halfway mark, there's no better time to do it then now.