Getting Your Moneysworth- The San Jose Sharks were looking to find a way to end what was otherwise by far their worst week of the season. Having lost three in a row, being in the midst of a difficult goal scoring drought and facing the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks hardly seemed like a recipe for a successful return to the Shark Tank. Despite all the maladies that the Sharks faced coming into this contest, Team Teal dug in deep and gave the Blackhawks all they can handle and them some. In the end the Sharks found a way to eek out a 2-1 shootout win before another sold out house at the Shark Tank. Joe Pavelski had a shorthanded goal in the third period, and later added a goal in the shootout period as did Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton to secure the hard-fought win. The win also snaps a three game skid and ends a very difficult week for the Sharks. The Sharks gained ground on both the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks who lost their games Saturday afternoon and evening. The game itself was a defensive slugfest in which each team exchanged defensive blows throughout the contest. Both teams did not score in the first two periods but not because of lack of effort. Both teams put on very good defensive clinics while goalies Antti Niemi and the Blackhawks Corey Crawford matched saves in-goal for the entire contest plus the five-minute overtime period. It was not until the shootout period that Team Teal was finally able to separate themselves from the Blackhawks in this high level contest. The fans who went to this game left the building happy from the Sharks winning while also getting their moneysworth in witnessing one of the better games played in the NHL this season.
Keys To The Victory- One of the things that the Sharks did well was how they played during their four penalty kills on the evening. Going down a man in a scoreless game against the Blackhawks is never a good idea. The Sharks however were able to keep their composure on the ice during Chicago’s power play opportunities and ultimately were rewarded for their patients with Pavekski’s short-handed goal in the third period. The Sharks during the Blackhawks power plays did not prevent all scoring chances as the Blackhawks had some good looks on the Sharks net. Team Teal however stayed on top of the puck and were often times able to effectively not only just clear out their zones but even control the puck in the Blackhawks zone for a considerable amount of Chicago’s power play time. When the teams played even strength early on it was the Blackhawks who controlled the puck and the Sharks zone. However in the Sharks best defensive effort of the season Team Teal was able to do enough to disrupt shooting lanes and keep the attacks led by Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews (tayz) and Marion Hossa in check. Niemi was tested by the Blackhawks throughout the contest however came up all aces on this evening as he was ready for all of the hard rubber that came his way. The Sharks also blocked a number of shots including a couple of point-blank blocks from Brad Stuart.
Blackhawks Were Equally As Tough- The Sharks were not the only team on the ice putting in a strong defensive effort. The Blackhawks answered the Sharks defense with quite a defensive stand of their own. Crawford in net answered the bell as well and handled the majority of pucks he saw coming his way. The pucks that did not reach Crawford were blocked by a stingy Blackhawk defensive effort that not only blocked shots but also shooting lanes and often times also got in the way of many of the Sharks feed pass attempts as well. One of the things that has made a team like the Blackhawks successful over the last few seasons is their ability to track down the puck from almost anywhere on the ice and to do so effectively. The team speed of the Blackhawks effectively limited the Sharks number of scoring chances throughout the contest. As for Crawford, some of his best saves of the evening came from two Matt Irwin shots which were both rockets launched from the point as well as a no look pad save on Stuart with about seven and a half minutes remaining in the contest. Crawford on the evening would make 38 total saves.
Third Period Scoring- The game after a scoreless slugfest through the first 40 minutes picked up seem during a Blackhawks power play opportunity. With 14:27 remaining in the third period Stuart would be called for hooking giving the Blackhawks the man advantage. Chicago however thanks to the Sharks stubborn defense had a very difficult time advancing the puck past the neutral zone. Intercepting a pass attempt by Chicago to get the rubber biscuit into the Sharks defensive zone, Scott Hannan was able to get a feed pass to Pavelski threading the puck between the Blackhawks Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp. The puck reached Pavelski in stride and he was able to wrist a shot on goal which beat Crawford top shelf and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead. The only bad news was the Blackhawks still had 1:34 of power play time remaining and had plenty of time to tie the game despite the game changing short-handed goal just scored by Team Teal. Just as it looked like the Sharks were about the kill off the penalty, they just could not get that final clear they needed and Brandon Saad (sawd) drilled his own wrister past Niemi after taking a feed pass from Kris Versteeg. The goal was made possible thanks to Brent Seabrook preventing the Sharks from getting the puck out of their zone at the last possible moment. Seabrook immediately fed the puck to Hossa who in turn got it over to Versteeg.
Shootout Success- After a scoreless overtime, the game came down to the shootout where they Sharks once again had to come out on top of a skills competition go gain that all important extra point in the standings. The Sharks came up all aces as Pavelski along with Marleau and Thornton were able to solve Crawford. Meanwhile Niemi after giving up a score to Toews was able to deny Sharp’s attempt to match Marleau in the second frame. Thornton’s game winner prevented Kane from having a chance to tie the shootout in the third frame. This marked the first time this season the Sharks in a shootout scored in all three frames doing so against probably one of the best netminders in the league.
Twitter Quote- Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan when asked by the San Jose Mercury’s David Pollack about this game being a possible post season preview, “Oh god, I hope it’s a preview because that means we’re playing in final four.” (courtesy of @PollakOnSharks twitter).
Next Sharks Game- The San Jose Sharks return to the Shark Tank Monday Night (Feb. 3rd) to take on the Philadelphia Flyers. The puck drops at 7:30pm (PT) and can be seen on Comcast SportsNet. The game can also he heard on the Sharks Radio Network and through NHL Game Center.
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