Doug Wilson’s acquisitions turned in very solid performances in San Jose’s Game One Victory.
However, Peter DeBoer and the rest of the Sharks talked about how this group was different from the one that blew the 3-0 lead two seasons ago. Many of those different pieces played a pivotal role as San Jose was able to take Game One by a 4-3 final last night.
While the Sharks top players were certainly key, some fresh faces in teal acquitted themselves quite well.
Let’s start with Joel Ward who played on the second line alongside Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi. That line was probably the Sharks best line all night as they were consistently causing havoc in the Kings zone.
Ward was signed as a free agent this offseason by Doug Wilson for his ability to elevate his game in the postseason. He did just that last night as he was directly responsible for two of the four San Jose goals.
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With things knotted up at one in the second, Ward won a clean face off from Jeff Carter right back to Brent Burns who wristed one past Jonathan Quick to give the Sharks their first lead.
Following a bad shorthanded goal against, it was Ward’s work in front of Quick on the very next shift that helped keep a puck alive before Tomas Hertl slammed in the rebound. It’s the kind of grinding-type hockey that Ward is known for and will be needed throughout these playoffs.
Ward finished the night with those two assists and a plus-two rating, while his linemate in Donskoi was good in his first career postseason game. Donskoi was able to use his creativity to create some nice chances throughout the game and had a great shot just before Hertl’s tying goal.
On the blue line, Paul Martin and Roman Polak each showed why Wilson targeted them to upgrade the Sharks defensive unit. Being paired with Burns is no easy task, but Martin was there to provide cover for his defensive partner.
While the second Kings goal took an unfortunate bounce off Martin, he was rock solid the rest of the night, finishing as a plus-two in more than 18 minutes of ice time. He will continue to be a key throughout this series as he will be counted upon to provide that defensive presence alongside the free-wheeling Burns.
For Polak, he was acquired for series just like this as he was a physical presence all night long. He wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the corners against the heavy forecheck that L.A. bring. He finished with three hits on the night, but felt like he was even more active than that in taking the body.
And finally, who can forget the most important position between the pipes in Martin Jones. Jones played a solid game overall after he was caught lunging on the Kings first goal.
From there, Jones was in good position for most of the night and his teammates didn’t give him much chance on either of the three tallies, with two deflecting off Sharks.
He finished the night with 21 saves, including several big stops in the final minutes as the Kings threw the kitchen sink at him in search of the game-tying goal.
While it’s only one game and Sharks fans certainly know that, it’s promising to see the newcomers that Wilson brought in make immediate dividends.
It’s these players that make San Jose a much deeper team than in past postseasons and one that can challenge L.A. in ways they couldn’t before.