The Inexplicable- Patrick Kane scored two goals including the game winning goal in the second period as the San Jose Sharks could not get out of their own way in an inexplicable 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Another full house at the Shark Tank witness a game which started with great promise and ended with a very loud thud. The loss is the Sharks second straight regulation loss and third loss overall as their seven game winning streak to start the season is quickly becoming a very distant memory. The Sharks after getting off to a fast 2-0 start over the Blackhawks found themselves making mental mistakes that turned a promising start into an somewhat embarrassing loss. Three of the first four Blackhawks goals were the direct result of Sharks turnovers, two of which happened in the first period inside of a 50 second span. The Blackhawks with their win move to an 8-0-2 overall record to remain the NHL’s only unbeaten team. Chicago not only comes away with a huge road win, but in the process may have demonstrated through their disciplined play through the second half of the first period and in final two periods why they appear to be clearly the better of the two teams. The only good news for the Sharks after this game is that they do not have to play again until Saturday. The Sharks will need the rest and time to regroup after what so far was easily their worst performance of this shortened season.
Fast Start For Sharks- For about the first nine minutes of the contest everything seemed to be going the Sharks way. The Sharks got on the board just 3:54 into the opening period as Joe Pavelski was able to take a rebound of a slap shot from Mark-Edoward Vlasic and punch the puck past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Moments later Tommy Wingles’ first goal of the season gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead as he drilled a laser from the left point that beat Crawford to his right at the 5:18 mark of the opening period. Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville smartly used his team’s timeout at this point. Shortly there after the game would start to shift in favor of the Blackhawks and slowly begin to slip away for team teal.
Saad Start to a Sad Finish- Chicago’s rally back into the contest started when left winger Brandon Saad would knock a puck over Sharks goalie’s Antti Niemi’s shoulder and into the net to bring his team to within a goal at just past the 10 minute mark of the opening period. The Sharks would extend the lead back out to two just 39 seconds later as Michal Handzus drilled a slap shot that beat Crawford to his right. On the ensuing faceoff, apparently someone forgot to tell the Sharks the referee was ready to drop the puck. The Blackhawks took the faceoff as the Sharks looked almost surprised that play had restarted. The puck was launched behind the Sharks net where Andrew Shaw would eventually end up with it and stuffed it into the net to bring the Blackhawks back to within 3-2 just eight seconds after Handzus’ goal for the Sharks.
An even more inexplicable error occurred in front of the Sharks net just 80 seconds later when Justin Braun lost control of a puck that hit Brad Stuarts’ skate and ended up on the stick of Marcus Kruger. From there Kruger slammed home the puck past the beseiged Niemi to tie the game. The Sharks in a matter of 89 seconds had gone from leading 2-0 to being tied 3-3. Sharks coach Todd McLellan called his team timeout at that point to settle down the Sharks. From that point on it would slowly but surely grow into what would become a long night for team teal. As for the remainder of the first period, both teams had some decent scoring chances however could not find the back of the net as both Crawford and Niemi shut down their opponents over the final eight minutes and change. The Blackhawks had the majority of the scoring chances and outshot the Sharks 16-10.
More Bad Breaks for Sharks- The Sharks second period against the Blackhawks seemed to be maybe the most surreal period for the Sharks this season. The statistics will show that the Sharks did outshoot the Blackhawks 12-6, however the Sharks did not put anything towards the net that looked as if it was creating a serious scoring chance. The second turning point of the game (the first being blowing a two goal lead in the first period) occurred when Andrew Desjardins put a clean hit on former Shark Jamal Mayers. As soon as Desjardins got up the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith was all over him as the two wrestled each other to the ice. It appeared that the Sharks would end up with a power play and possibly a double minor on Chicago, however that turned out not to be the case. Desjardins was given 5 minutes for fighting and a match penalty for intent to injure. Keith was given a double minor, but that was negated by the major to Desjardins. The officials ruled that Desjardins went for Mayer’s head even when the replays showed that the hit was shoulder to shoulder and clean. In this exchange it would negate any Sharks power play opportunity as both sides skated four on four with the Blackhawks getting a one minute power play at the end of it.
Late in the four on four sequence, Douglas Murray and Stuart were playing a puck that was behind the Sharks net. Murray would lose control of the puck when it was tipped away from him by Jonathan Toews. From there Toews fed Kane at the right point who then blasted a slap shot that beat Niemi and gave Chicago the lead. The Sharks would get a power play opportunity late in the period when Kruger tripped Thornton behind the Blackhawks’ goal. However again the power play after an early scoring chance never got untracked as Chicago killed off this penalty leaving the Sharks Power Play units in what has turned out to be a huge slump from which they cannot seem to break from. To cap things off, through two periods the Sharks had a total of 13 giveaways.
It Just Never Got Any Better- The third period for the Sharks was like many periods they have played through their last five games, able to get some pucks on net but failing to generate any serious scoring threats. Things would never get better for team teal as Crawford had no issues with the 11 saves he would make in the period. In a night where they Sharks largely beat themselves because they could not get out of their own way, a power play opportunity with over 13 minutes remaining was negated as Niemi played a cleared puck out of the trapezoid area. Frustration would start to set in for the Sharks as Thornton and Toews got into an argument on the ice. Later Vlasic and Sharp would get coinciding slashing penalties to each others as they used their sticks to recreate a sword fight of some sort. With 1:25 left the Sharks pulled Niemi for the extra attacker. However the Sharks dumped the puck to hard into their own zone and it rimmed around to Kane who took the puck to the neutral zone and drilled in an empty netter.
Reality Check For Sharks- The only good news for the Sharks tonight were two items. First, the penalty kill was effective again as it has not allowed a goal in 31 consecutive penalty kill situations. The penalty kill has been critical as if it wasn’t for success in this department, the Sharks would likely be 4-5-1 instead of 7-2-1. Second, the Sharks do not play again until Saturday when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes in a the seasons’ second matinee. The Sharks frankly look like a team that needs to rest and regroup as few things have gone well over the last three games. If the Sharks get to the post season, it will be teams such as Anaheim and Chicago that they will need to go through. There are still 38 games to play, but right now it’s questionable that the Sharks would match well against either of those two teams should they meet in the post season in late April. It could be that the Sharks are just tired. It could be that just maybe the Sharks just dealt with two teams that as of right now are better set then they are. Only time will tell that story. This maybe the break the Sharks need to just get away long enough to retool and refocus. After Saturday, it’s a six game road trip with Chicago twice and new nemesis St Louis. We all know what happened the last time the Sharks were there.
Shark Bytes- Tommy Wingles was the game’s second star of the evening as he got his first goal of the season. The other two starts were both from the Blackhawks, Patrick Kane being the third star and Jonathan Toews getting the top honor. The Sharks have given up seven goals over their last four periods of play. The power play continues to struggle going 0 for 3 tonight and is now 0 for the last 21 opportunities. How bad was the Blackhawks three goal explosion of an 89 second span of the second period for the Sharks? Prior to tonight, the Blackhawks had been in a bit of a slump themselves having scored just three goals in the last 198 minutes of play prior. The Sharks on their next road trip visit Chicago on February 15th and a week later on the 22nd. Dan Boyle returned to the Sharks line up tonight, making Jason Demers a healthy scratch before the game. The NHL as of 11pm PT has apologized and rescinded Desjardins match penalty. The apology is of little consequence, but certainly serves and an indictment on tonight’s officiating crew. Maybe the officials need to stage a lockout next…
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