The Morning After: Joe Pavelski is the hero again
The Sharks bounced right back to put the Predators on the brink of elimination.
Two nights after a brutal, triple-overtime loss to the Predators in Nashville, the Sharks bounced back to retake command of the best-of-seven game series. Right in the middle of San Jose's victory? Joe Pavelski, again. He scored twice in the Sharks' win, his seventh and eighth of the playoffs, and helped San Jose to a game five win.
After the Sharks won game two, I wrote about the Joes importance to this San Jose team. They showed up again in game five, as both finished with a pair of points (Thornton assisted on both of Pavelski's goals) and Pavelski put six shots on goal. The two finished with positive corsi differentials at even strength and sit near the top of the Sharks in relative fenwick percentage this postseason.
A lot will be written about Pavelski's response in this game after seeing his would-be winner wiped off on Thursday night. My problem with that type of analysis is the assumptions that come with it. Pavelski, like every player in the NHL, is an incredible athlete that can put a bad night him without much issue. If he couldn't do that he wouldn't have made the NHL.
So no, I'm not surprised that Pavelski scored twice on Saturday night, nor do I see it as a "response" to a bit of bad luck on Thursday. Pavelski played well because he always plays well. He's good at hockey, turns out, and continues to play well after a refereeing decision goes against him. His skill, not his grit or mettle, is what makes him one of the best players in the NHL. I'm not one to take compliments away from the Sharks captain, but he deserves it based on his play — so let's not deny him that.
At least until this afternoon's Lightning-Islanders game, Pavelski sits tied with Nikita Kucherov with eight goals in the playoffs and his 12 points put him in a tie for fourth place. I don't know anything about Pavelski's locker room leadership, nor do I particularly think Peter DeBoer making him captain means a whole lot. He's one of the Sharks best players, and if the rest of the team is happy seeing him wear the C, so am I.
So let's avoid the lazy narratives that paint Pavelski as a changed man responding to adversity and instead tell the real story: Pavelski is one of the best players in the NHL. He has been one of the best players in the NHL for years now and that didn't change when an extra piece of fabric was sewn on his sweater. If you think this type of performance is new for Pavelski, it's because you haven't been paying attention.
Don't worry, if he has his say you'll get to watch him in the next round of the playoffs, too.