Sharks vs. Kings: Depth players help the cause in game five win
Five of the Sharks' six goals came from depth players.
Media members wrung their hands after the Kings won game three of the first round series. The Sharks needed contributions from their depth players to win this series, despite Joe Thornton and company carrying San Jose to the playoffs. Well, the Sharks got depth contributions in their game five victory as only one of six goals came from the top line talent.
Whether that bodes well for the Sharks going forward isn't particularly important, but seeing Joonas Donskoi get it going in particular is an encouraging sign for a team that relied on its top guns to get to a 3-1 lead. Donskoi, a pick up that ranks among general manager Doug Wilson's best moves, scored twice to help the Sharks beat their arch rivals on Friday. His second goal may have been more important, but the first was a thing of beauty.
We've talked about the sick mitts of Donskoi on this site before, but man is it nice to see that kind of skill on the Sharks in the playoffs. He also provided what ended up being the game-winning goal early in the third period, helping (slightly) ease the nerves of Sharks fans (okay, not me...but maybe for some of you?). Donskoi scored twice but was far from the only depth player to show what he can do in game five.
Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson and Matt Nieto all scored their first goals of the playoffs and while Karlsson's came on an empty net it's nice to see offensive contributions from further down in the lineup. The Sharks will continue to win if the Joe Thornton line plays well, but if they can get help from all four lines? All the better. San Jose's fourth line didn't have a particularly great series, but against teams not quite as deep as the Kings expect them to factor.
Brent Burns created this Tierney goal with an absolutely gorgeous stretch pass, but this is what speed deep in the lineup can create when things are clicking. Tierney and Tommy Wingels bombed ahead and Burns hit them with a perfect stretch pass to create this scoring chance. A real nice finish from Tierney got the Sharks their second goal of the game — sometimes you play well, sometimes the breaks go your way...and sometimes you get both.
Nieto scored exactly the kind of goal he should be scoring on a regular basis. He gets to the front of the net and lets the skilled players on his line take advantage. The Kings ended up rallying to tie the game, but Nieto's goal looked, at the time, to be the difference in this contest. After three minutes with the Kings net empty, Melker Karlsson provided the dagger.
For the Sharks to make a deep run in the playoffs they'll need the top guns to keep playing the way they did against the Kings. Still, San Jose boasts a nearly unprecedented amount of depth in the lineup and that may very well prove to be the difference down the line. Thornton, Pavelski and Burns may be the biggest reasons the Sharks won this series, but quality players on the third and fourth lines make this San Jose team scary.