The Morning After: Goonies never say die
San Jose recovered from a two-goal deficit to take down the Predators.
The value of come-from-behind victories can be overstated in sports. There's not much more thrilling than a comeback win but teams that routinely put themselves in a situation where they need to come back likely have problems that outweigh their plucky-never-say-die attitude.
San Jose battled back from a 2-0 deficit on Saturday evening to beat the Predators 3-2 in a shootout, showing the fight that has made this iteration of the Sharks so much fun to watch. At no point did the Sharks change their game in order to get back in the contest; instead, San Jose kept doing the same things that have worked for them all season and eventually that process bore fruit.
No team is good at overcoming a second-period deficit, per se. The league leader in win percentage after trailing through two periods is Washington with a .350 thanks to a 7-10-3 record. San Jose ranks seventh in that category with a mark of .207 with a record of 6-20-3. So yeah, the key here seems to be not trailing after two periods.
Most teams turn up the heat when trailing, thanks in no small part to other teams sitting on leads — but even when factoring the deficit San Jose took it to Nashville in the third period. The chart below shows the Sharks' score-adjusted fenwick for percentage, and well, it's pretty staggering.
The Sharks held at least a slight possession advantage for most of the night, but they really pulled away as soon as the puck was dropped in the third period. San Jose's top line fueled the comeback, as Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns in particular put together a monster third frame.
This is a great goal, but some of the Sharks' best plays didn't end up with the puck in the back of the net. In particular, Burns' final shift was one of the best I've ever seen since he became a member of the Sharks.
Burns starts this bit of zone time by chucking the puck all the way down into the offensive zone from below his own blue line and then makes two great plays to keep the puck inside the Nashville zone. If you're going to make a case for Burns winning the Norris trophy, this clip is a good place to start.
The stats match the eye test. Thornton, Pavelski and Hertl are all among the top possession players (and so is Joel Ward, which is nice to see). This Sharks' comeback boils down to the same ingredients that make up most San Jose wins: the top line plays brilliantly and eventually they convert on their numerous opportunities.
What I find so refreshing about the 2015-16 Sharks is that it at least feels like they're in nearly every game. San Jose isn't exactly putting on a clinic in scoring the game's first goal, but the overall consistency of the Sharks game has been wonderful to watch. Just look at their score-adjusted FF% in three game states (all from corsica.hockey).
Even if the Sharks don't overcome deficits particularly often, the fact that they stick to their game plan at least gives me optimism that they're capable of doing so. That's good for the long term success of the team and my mental health. We'll call it a win-win.