Team Teal concluded a four game homestead Thursday Night as five different Sharks scored in a 5-2 dispatching of the Dallas Stars. The Sharks looked very eager for atonement of two straight tough losses, this past Saturday to Florida and Tuesday Night to the surprise of the NHL this season, the Minnesota Wild by a 2-1 count. December is a big month for the Sharks as they will have played 10 home dates by the time the month is over. This would be a good place for the Sharks to make some hay, but they will have to do better than the 2-2 mark they’ve posted in the first four home dates this month. The upcoming road trip is brief but will be challenging as the Sharks travel to the midwest to take on the St Louis Blues Saturday Night, and the Chicago Blackhawks less than 24 hours later in the Windy City.
The Sharks to this point have a record of 15-9-1 for 31 points (out of a possible 50), and as of this writing are about in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference (7th place). This in itself at the moment is not a concern. The win over Dallas Thursday Night snapped a 4 losses in 5 games skid as the Sharks are struggling at times to put forward their best games. Players such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlet, Brent Burns and others have been enduring scoring slumps. In an 82 game schedule players will have slumps and teams will have slumps, it comes with the territory. Antti Niemi has held his own in goal, but I’m sure he had a few “come on guys” moments particulary against the Wild on Tuesday Night. Remember that last season in mid January the Sharks had about 47 points in the standings before taking off (and finishing with 105). It’s early, so really you cannot read too much into the wins or losses now. Needless to say however is that it would be nice to see some things get a little better and pick up, and not just the scoring but also the defense and especially the power play…and ofcouse the penalty kill could be a little better too…
As for the last two games:
Sharks didn’t “Hackett” - The game against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night started out pretty well for team teal as Joe Pavelski scored a highlight reel goal to put the Sharks up 1-0 just a minute into the game. Just a moment afterward, Wild goalie Josh Harding was knocked out of the game when he took an accidental knee to the head by one of his teammates, Nick Schultz. So Harding leaves the game, and entering in relief is rookie goalie Matt Hackett, who was just recalled from the AHL Houston Aeros. Hackett, the newphew of the the Sharks original goalie Jeff Hackett, came in and unexpectedly slammed the door on the Sharks. Hackett had what in my mind was arguably one of the most impressive debuts for a goalie I’ve ever seen and made 34 saves. Hackett was that good. Late first period goals from Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard held up in the Wild’s one goal win.
If Hackett was neverous or shaking, you would have never known it. The game was torcher for Sharks fans as team teal at one point of the first period they held a 16-0 shot advantage, but only had Pavelski’s goal to show for it. The Sharks basically did everything right, and did all a team could do except for scoring another goal. The problem wasn’t the Sharks agressiveness, the problem was the Sharks were seeing a 21 year old acting like Patrick Roy, and doing a good job of it. Despite the Sharks best efforts, all they could do at the end of the night is leave HP Pavillion wondering what just happened. This was a tough night for the Sharks and their fans, but at the same time if you are a hockey fan you have to tip your cap and give credit to Hackett who was lights out in the net, and looked like he could be the Wild’s future top goalie. As it turns out, this was no fluke. Thursday night Hackett made his first ever NHL start in L A against the Kings and made 42 saves as Minnesota won their sixth straight game, 4-2.
Making Dallas see Stars – The Sharks appreared to really be ithcing to get at it after Tuesday’s loss to the Wild. The Dallas Stars were just what the doctor ordered for team teals ailling. The Sharks took the hammer to the Stars early, getting goals from Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn just 15 seconds apart in the games first 83 seconds to grab an early 2-0 lead. This was a game the Sharks needed probably for the psyche more than anything, and the early two goals seemed to be a springboard for a strong start. However, the route to victory for the Sharks wasn’t easy as Dallas would eventually score twice in a row themselves. Dallas cut the Sharks lead to one with a late first period goal from Mike Ribeiro. Later, a second period power play talley from Brandon Morrow tied the game at 2-2. In between all of that, the Sharks missed out on a huge opportunity early in the second period when they had a 5 on 3 power play opportunity which failed as they Sharks could not manage even a single shot on goal (hint hint: the power play needs some serious work going forward).
However, the Sharks found their landlegs and settled down things after killing off a Dallas power play shorty after Morrow’s game tying goal. The Sharks took the lead and untilmately control of the game scoring three times within a six minute span. First, it was a slump busting goal from an overdue Ryane Clowe, who was on the receiving end of a puck that just got the right bounce from the boards behind the Dallas net from a Joe Thornton pass. Just two minutes later Brad Winchester was at the right place at the right time and redirected Thornton’s shot underneath Dallas goalie Andrew Raycroft into the back of the net for a 4-2 lead. Torrey Mitchell, who’s had a tough season so far, scored on a slap shot taking a feed pass by J McGinn from behind the Dallas net. Niemi made 18 saves as the Sharks defense racheted up their efforts allow the Stars only 20 shots on goal. Ofcourse, no game against the Dallas Stars is complete without a Steve Ott meltdown. Ott again managed to get into a skirmish and earned a 10 minute misconduct penalty late in the second period. Overall, a good win for the Sharks at a time when they really needed one.
Meet Me in St Louis (and Chicago too) – The Sharks have a busy weekend ahead of them, with two games against the Blues and Blackhawks within 24 hours of each other. The Sharks come into Saturday’s game owing the Blues one after St Louis took a 4-2 decision at the Tank on Oct 15th. The Blues enter the game currently in 5th place in the Western Confrence with a 16-9-3 (35 points) record. The Blues have defended their home ice well this season, having won 10 of 14 at the Scottrade Center. The Blues are led by David Backes, T J Oshie, Alexander Steen who have 29 goals and 56 points between them. Brian Elliot has been the “go to guy” in the net for the Blues posting an 11-2 record and a .944 save percentage. The Blues will present a lot of challenges for the Sharks who will need to bring their “A” game to the rink for certain.
It gets no easier Sunday for the Sharks who travel 300 miles north up I-55 for their second match of the year against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks turned away the ‘Hawks at the Tank Nov 23rd 1-0. Niemi shutout his former team making 34 saves in a very tight contest with the only goal coming from Jason Demers late in the 2nd period. The Blackhawks are currently 2nd in the Western Confence Standings trailing Minnesota by three points (41-38). Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marion Hossa are crazy good (as usual) with 55 goals and 122 points between them in 29 games played this season.
If the Sharks get a split of these two games, that will be a good thing. Two wins would be great here, and the Sharks are a generaly tough road team. They’ll need to be as they have back to back tall orders awaiting them. Let’s see what happens here…
The King Shark
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