San Jose Sharks Coach Todd McLellan accepting excuses or whining by his players is about as likely to happen as a 4th of July Parade down Ste. Catherine Street in Montreal.
Vive le U-S-A!
Anyone who has followed the San Jose Sharks has heard the old “but we won the shot battle” overture more than they care to recount. This comment is never offered as an excuse, as again, those don’t typically fly too well. Rather, these shot-battle comments are usually offered as statements of attempted catharsis by whichever Shark is being interviewed post-game.
Something mumbled by a frustrated player to some guy with a microphone or recorder in his face…just a guy trying to explain what the heck just happened out on the ice.
The statement also typically guarantees a few things: the Sharks played well (yup), won key metrics like face-offs and takeaways (check), and finally, were probably beaten by a brick wall of a goalie (affirmative).
On that note, please welcome to the stage Mr. Nicklas Backstrom.
Backstrom played beautifully, turning away 36 shots by the San Jose Sharks and frustrating them with his solid play all evening. He held first shots all night, and offered zero juicy rebounds or second chances. Mind you, Backstrom is no one-hit-wonder, but cold comfort will be taken by the Sharks for losing to one of the best netminders in the NHL this year.
San Jose’s future-HOF line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau were held in check all night after combining for 20 points over their previous two games versus Anaheim and New Jersey. They swarmed, they dished and blasted, but to no avail.
Nicklas Backstrom is part of a group of goalies off to white-hot starts such as Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis, Tim Thomas in Boston, Jonathan Quick down in L.A. and our own Antero Niittymaki. Playing behind a solid Wild D, boasting of a top-10 penalty kill percentage, Backstrom and company also stymied all five of the Sharks’ extra man opportunities.
That Sharks power-play unit had come into the game ranked #1 in the NHL.
Very simply, Backstrom was just better than the Sharks team last night, and a look at the final box score saw the Sharks indeed ahead in shots, faceoff wins and takeaways…just not tallies…
…and tallies pay the mortgage.
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