After watching the Caps go into Anaheim and whack the Ducks by putting up seven goals, I was a little bit worried the Sharks would be on the receiving end of a Russian firing squad that remembered how to load its guns. I chose to remain hopeful that Ovechkin & Co. would be out of gas after a wild game the night before, but as I watched them warming up at The Tank my hopes were dashed. They still looked energized from the night before, and it’s a bit hard to miss an energized Ovechkin.
Turns out the visitors did indeed run out of gas in the 3rd, whereas the Sharks put together a solid 60 minute effort and prolonged the Capitals losing streak in San Jose, where they haven’t won since 1993. To put that in perspective, their last win in Shark territory came when Schindler’s List was taking home Best Picture, Meat Loaf was topping the charts, and the Super NES was cutting-edge. Also for those of you that aren’t Sharks historians, you could have slapped some skates on a makeshift team from Jamaica and they would have wiped the floor with the Sharks in ’93 (Sharks hold the NHL record for most losses in a season in 92-93, with 71 losses).
As for last night, I was impressed with the Sharks’ effort. While Ovechkin ended up getting on the scoresheet, they held the Caps’ explosive offense in check and defensemen like Jason Demers and Big DB stepped up big after Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early with the notoriously vague ‘upper body injury’. No specifics have been released yet on the nature of the injury or a timetable for his return. But the 5 remaining defenseman looked solid, helping Niemi in front of the net by eliminating most of the Caps’ second chances and even stepping up to take some nice shots offensively.
I was also keeping a close eye on the Sharks’ Big Three, who have been lackluster lately. It was nice to see them get on the score sheet, although I have no idea how Heatley got credited with the goal from Boyle’s slapper as it looked like it was deflected at least four times (Boyle didn’t even get an assist). But picking up deflections and the garbage around the net is Heater’s bread and butter, so I’m happy to see his appetite improving. Maybe it will take some more Steve Ott or Ryan Getzlaf to wake Thornton up completely, but Marleau has been picking up the pace and we’re still getting a lot of help from the likes of Clowe, Couture, and Pavelski, who seem to be our best players at the moment. Don’t let Meat Loaf fool you Thornton, two out of three IS bad come playoff time, where we’ll need all our star-power.
With how ridiculously tight the West is, we’re still a month and a half from season’s end but at this rate it looks like two measly points will make the difference between winning the division or missing the playoffs entirely.
Bottom line: Fun game, Sharks looked good, and they broke a habit of losing their first game back after a long road trip. For a detailed run-down, game highlights, and a chance to revel in our opponents’ mourning, look here. This weekend the Sharks play host to the struggling Avs, and it’s a good thing for us they are sans-Forsberg as I remember roughly half of his highlight reel goals being scored against us.
Saturday should be a good one. Welcome home, boys.