Ryan Miller stole the show making 39 saves and Drew Stafford’s late first period goal off of a neutral zone turnover gave the Buffalo Sabres a 1-0 win over the San Jose Sharks at the Shark Tank Thursday night. The Sharks despite out shooting Buffalo 39-19 and holding the Sabres to just nine shots on goal over the final two periods thanks to a strong defensive effort, would only see that effort go to waste as once again team teal just could not execute on multiple scoring opportunities. Not only did the Sharks miss opportunities in this game, they also missed an opportunity to catch the Phoenix Coyotes in the standings as they had also lost earlier in the evening to Calgary. The Sharks with the loss are 5-9-1 since the All-Star Break and are looking more like a team will be very fortunate just to make the post season at all.
Antti Niemi made 18 saves on the night, and the one goal up he gave you cannot really fault him for as he was done in by a neutral zone turnover that certainly was not his fault at all. The game for the Sharks was a complete reversal of fortune from Tuesday night’s win over Philadelphia. The Flyers did everything Tuesday offensively except to score. The Sharks did everything Thursday night offensively except to score. It wasn’t the lack of effort for the Sharks as so much as it was just the lack of luck and execution as the chances were certainly there. With St Louis coming into the Shark Tank Saturday night, the Sharks need to find a way to clean up their missed opportunities on the ice as each game that goes by with an “L” is only going to get more costly as the “Dog Days” of March are now here.
Recapping The Lost Night at the Tank:
Unguard- The Sharks and Sabres played a relatively even first period with each team having a fair amount of chances. The Sharks would out shoot Buffalo 11-10 in the first period, however would find that getting any rubber past Miller would be a difficult task. Miller, who stopped 43 shots on goal in Anaheim Wednesday night stayed hot making saves despite the Sharks best efforts. Niemi meanwhile got challenged by the Sabres and had a good deal of success in the first period. Niemi, who shut out Philadelphia Tuesday night, would see his bid to keep his shut out streak going snapped late in the first period. With 1:15 remaining in the first, Brent Burns made an errant pass in the neutral zone that was intercepted by the Sabres Tyler Ennis who brought the puck back up the ice. Once he was well into the Sharks zone, Ennis passed it off to Stafford who took the puck in the slot and drilled it past Niemi to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead. Buffalo kept their forecheck going and Niemi was forced to make one final save on a hard slap shot from Thomas Vanek. The Sharks had a chance early in the game to get on the board however Miller snuffed out Ryane Clowe’s attempt to stuff the rubber biscuit into the basket. Jason Demers hard slap shot later in the period also was denied entry to the net by Miller.
Touche- The second period saw the Sharks defensively lock down the Sabres as they held Buffalo to only four shots on goal for the period, with three of those coming in the first three and a half minutes of play. The Sharks despite this had their own struggles trying to find the tying goal as the 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner on top of his game making 11 more saves, including another point blank shot from Clowe. The Sabres defensively were employing the same lock down style of defense that brought success in their recent 9-3-3 run prior to this contest. The Sharks had a tough time getting the puck across the neutral zone and outside of a late power play opportunity, the Sharks never really established any kind of long lasting forecheck. The Sabres through the first two periods showed an amazing ability to flood the passing and shooting lanes and kept team teal at bay though the first 40 minutes despite the discrepancy in the shot total. The Sharks had had some solid chances during their power play late in the period after the Sabres Ville Leino was assessed a two minute holding penalty. Despite the Sharks best efforts here, Miller turned away all incoming shots from Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Colin White. Thornton during his attempt to stuff the puck past Miller was slashed, however the officials let it go. Thornton had the opportunity after attempting to stuff in Clowe’s shot on the net.
Ryan’s Song – The third period saw the Sharks become fairly dominant and carrying much of the play and effectively forechecking for most of the period. Miller saw more hard rubber launched at him and was challenged often. However, Miller would continue to steal the show and ultimately the game as he withstood a team teal storm of 17 shots on goal. The only shot that beat Miller on the entire evening came early in the third period when Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s slap shot from the right point hit the crossbar. Though the shot on goal itself does not count in the stats it sure summed up the Sharks night. The Sharks would swarm around Miller’s net for much of the period without success. The best team teal chance in the period came when newly acquired TJ Galiardi led a three on one break down ice flanked by Daniel Winnik and Justin Braun. Before Galiardi could feed the pack towards Winnik, Miller got his goal stick on the puck and made one of the better poke checks you’ll ever see. Even a short handed opportunity by the Sharks came up empty as Patrick Marleau and Pavelski led another charge that failed. The Sharks kept pressuring but again would run out of time as they were shut down by one of the leagues best goalies.
Game Analysis- Tonight for the Sharks this ended up sadly being basically just 60 minutes of a wasted effort. There’s nothing else they can take from this game except for that cold hard fact. That and the fact the Sharks may in fact be their own worst enemy. They played well enough to win, but still managed to find a way to lose. You have to give credit to Miller as he did what a good goalie does, steal a game (such as Niemi did Tuesday night versus Philadelphia). Despite the Sharks efforts which were certainly not lacking, tonight proved that they are either a tremendously snake bitten and just plain unlucky, or simply starting to slowly lose their edge as the season winds down to the final 20 games.
Defensively, the Sharks efforts was every bit as good as it was Tuesday if not better. However, you cannot win games if you can’t score and now that the Sharks are finding a defense, it seems offensively they are challenged. With the Sharks, all season it’s about one aspect of the game shining while another aspect is faulty or even failing. When the offense is hot, the defense, penalty kill and goal tending are off. When they are on defensively, the goalie is playing well, the offense suddenly cannot score. One of the most deceiving statistics in hockey is the “Shots on Goal” statistic. I’ve seen too many games where the Sharks will out shoot an opponent by 20 or even 30 shots and still lose 1-0, 2-0, 3-1, etc. With the Phoenix Coyotes losing at home to the Calgary Flames, the Sharks missed an opportunity to take back the lead in the Pacific Division. Make no mistake, this could be one the Sharks look back on come April 8th with a degree of regret.
Blue Saturday- The Sharks now need to quickly put this one behind them and get ready for a team which has owned them this season. The Blues come into the Shark Tank Saturday night. The Blues are 3-0-0 against team teal this season and have completely dominated the Sharks this season. In the last seven periods between these two teams, the Blues have outscored team teal 7-0 and it all started with a goal by Kent Huskins in the 3rd period of the Blues last appearance at the Tank on October 15th. Huskins’ goal tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period as St Louis would score three goals in the period in route to a 4-2 win. The Sharks are in a situation now where their playoffs have in effect pretty much already begun. They are 7th in the Western Conference standings overall, however the perch there is precarious to say the least…
GO SHARKS!!! BEAT ST LOUIS SATURDAY!!!
The King Shark
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