The Morning After: Burns, second line power Sharks

San Jose improved its 5-on-5 play and added another short-handed goal to leave Denver with a W.

The Sharks escaped Denver with a win yesterday, ending their mini two-game losing streak and avoiding dropping their record below .500 after starting the season 4–0. Pete DeBoer was banking on taking this game when he started Alex Stalock in Dallas on Saturday, and that’s exactly what San Jose did. It wasn’t a pretty win by any means, especially when you consider the quality of the opposing team, but a win is a win, especially when you’re playing your second game in just over 24 hours.

We all know that Brent Burns is a force to be reckoned with when he gets going, and it was on full display yesterday. In addition to the two goals, he fired eight shots at the net and made several big defensive blocks as the Avs controlled play for the greater part of the third period. Burnzie was in full-on wrecking ball mode; he put the team on his back and carried them to victory in a game they needed to win.

The Sharks as a group were much better at even strength against the Avs, scoring two goals 5-on-5 to the Avs’ one—and the one came on a fluky ricochet late in the game. The Sharks also outshot the Avs 26–19 at even strength and attempted 31 unblocked shots to Colorado’s 25, and those numbers could have been even better if not for that stretch in the middle of the third when the Avs outshot them 7–0. The Sharks definitely looked like a team on the second half of a back-to-back for a while.

It was a particularly good game for the second line of Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau, and Joel Ward, all of whom finished +10 or better in the Corsi department. The trio combined for four points, and Marleau set up Burns’ second goal, which looked like it would be the game-winner at the time. Hertl’s looked great filling in for Logan Couture on that line; when Couture returns, Sharks fans may finally get to see the legitimate third line center they’ve been dreaming of since Joe Pavelski joined the first line.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a good game for the Sharks’ penalty kill (Burnzie’s shortie notwithstanding), which surrendered two goals to an Avs power play that entered the game in a 1-for-24 funk. Through 11 games, San Jose is 20th in the league with a 76.9 kill rate. That’s a higher ranking than last year when it was 25th in the league, but the percentage is actually down from 78.5. Pete DeBoer, whose Devils teams were known for their penalty killing, highlighted the penalty kill as an area for improvement when he was hired, and almost a month into the season, that status is unchanged.

It was pretty funny to see Patrick Roy use his coach’s challenge on Burns’ second goal. The review took about thirty seconds, and replays showed that Hertl didn’t come close to touching Semyon Varlamov. I guess the whole process still bought his players a few seconds more rest than they would have gotten if he’d potentially used the time-out he lost.