The Sharks have completed the first three games of their six game home stand, and so far it’s had some tough moments. It’s also had it’s good moments too. A big come from behind win against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Thursday 4-3, followed by a difficult OT loss to Nashville also by a 4-3 score. Monday Night versus division rival Los Angeles, the Sharks were able to do what they could not do against the Preds, put the game away in the third period by controlling much of the play throughout. The end result being a 4-2 over the Kings in the first of what will be six very interesting games between the two teams.
The Sharks have more work to do with upcoming games vs Minnesota (Thursday 11/10), Phoenix (Saturday 11/12), and Detroit next Wendnesday (11/16). The second half of this homestand will be an equally tough undertaking, though it’s nothing team teal hasn’t been through before or can’t handle. Starting with the Wild Thrusday Night the Sharks will have do deal with a group led by former Sharks Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley who no doubt will be out to prove something against their former team.
As for a look at how the homestand has gone so far…
March of the Penguins- By the time most people were settling into their seats, the Sharks were inexplicably down 2-0 as Pittsburgh scored twice within the first 2:04 of the game. Coach Todd McLellan then pulled Antti Niemi, who looked both stunned and maybe like he has just had awaken moments before. Niemi actually made four saves in between the two goals, but the fact the Sharks had allowed six shots in that short of time showed they may not have been quite ready when the bell had rung. So McLellan hit the reset button, got Thomas Greiss into the game and gave Niemi the night off. Griess responded by making 29 saves, and the only goal given up to me at least was a point of controversy (the goal that put Pittsburgh up 3-1 hit Evgeni Malkin’s skate, and was ruled a good goal after being reviewed by the league officials in Toronto). The goal was really not Greiss’ fault at all.
Patrick Marleau’s second period goal got the crowd back into the game until Malkin’s “field goal”. In spite of this, the Sharks held their ground for the remainder of the period. The Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury was tough in the net for the Pens. However, the Sharks managed to get two past him in the third thanks to a great backhanded shot by Ryane Clowe, and Jamie McGinn stuffing a feed pass from Michal Handzus underneath Fleury with 4:54 in regulation. Clowe would netted the winner in the shootout. The Sharks just stuck with the plan and got the job done, even though it looked like they all should have had a shot of “5 Hour Energy” before the game started.
The Sharks forget to lock the barn door - The Sharks visited Nashville in late October and beat the Preds 3-1. So, the Sharks seemed to have a upper hand against the Preds as they came into the The Shark Tank. However, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne was up to the challenge early stopping 19 Sharks shots on goal in the first period. After falling behind early in the second period, the Sharks were able to rattle off three straight goals from Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat, and Logan Couture. The last from Couture just 52 seconds into the third period gave the Sharks a 3-1 lead.
However, just when it seemed to be going the Sharks way, the game changed on two quick strikes by Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Sutter with a three minute span to tie the game and give the Preds new life. Nashville controlled much of the game there after. Despite a late power play chance by the Sharks which carried in the OT period, the Sharks could no longer solve Rinne. David Legwand, who scored the Preds first goal also got the game winner in the OT. The Sharks lead 3-1, then the barn door opened, the horse escaped, the fox got the hens and the farm had foreclosed. The lesson: a two lead, though nice at the time, is even nicer once the clock reads 0:00. When the clock reads 19:08, there is still plenty of work do to. Don’t be satisfied, close the deal first. The Sharks simply failed to do that here.
King Me - On Monday Night Hockey (okay, maybe they don’t call it that during the telecast), the Sharks renewed their rivalry against the Los Angeles Kings who have the look and a roster of a team that is a legit threat in the Western Conference. This was another game that lived up to it’s billing. The game had some simularities to the Nashville game two nights earlier. The Sharks had some first period chances but were denied by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. What was nice to see though was Antti Niemi was back on the beam as he turned away 14 Kings shots in the first period, including a break away in the Sharks zone. However the Kings grabbed a 1-0 lead early in the second period taking advantage of a 5 on 3 power play with Jack Johnson scoring on the two man advantage.
However, the Sharks from that point picked up the slack and put more rubber on Quick before Joe Thornton tied the game with a back handed tuck in that snuck under the goalie. A moment later, Patrick Marleau deflected a shot from Dan Boyle past Quick to put team teal ahead. Boyle would also blast a shot on a power play effort later in the period to give the Sharks that now infamous 3-1 lead. However, the Sharks stepped up their game in the third period and made sure they would not blow another two goal lead. Logan Couture’s third period tip in put the Sharks up by three and helped team teal to secure this game. Niemi made 29 saves and for the most part seemed to be back on his game.
Keys to the first three games - (1) The turning point of the game vs Pittsburgh was when Clowe and the Penguins Deryk Engelland dropped gloves as the second period started. Down 2-0, Clowe wanted to send a message, though the message was more to his team then it was to the Penguins. Clowe wanted his team to know that he was here to take care of business and expects the team to do the same. Moments later Marleau scored and the Sharks went on to find a way to win. (2) The Sharks need to not let a two goal lead at any point of a game give them a false sense of security. That was obviously the case vs Nashville, however by the time the Kings got to The Shark Tank two nights later, the Sharks did what they needed to and made sure they did not make the same mistakes twice. Mistakes will happen, it’s what you learn from them. The Sharks did what they could not do vs Nashville two nights earlier, close the deal!
The next three games will be interesting and present different challenges for the Sharks as they move forward on this homestand. A 4-1-1 stand would be good one. A 5-0-1 stand? That would be a big jump for team teal. Let’s see what happens vs Minnesota, Phoenix and Detroit.
The King Shark