The San Jose Sharks preseason featured its first loss thanks largely to their decision to leave the five best skaters inactive…
The San Jose Sharks preseason has been a model of scoreboard consistency. The first three games against Pacific Division rivals all ended in 3-2 overtime victories. The Anaheim Ducks were also limited to two goals but allowed none Wednesday, Oct. 5.
Preseason scores are not significant, but much can be learned from them. For instance, San Jose has consistently been responsible in its own end. Teams win the majority of games in which they allow just two goals, so being four for four is great.
However, preseason is ultimately a time to evaluate individuals. The coaching staff looks for execution of the system, making plays, chemistry and more.
Coaches want to see how players perform in new roles. Prospects get their chance to make the starting lineup. Young players showcase their growth.
There is a limited amount the Sharks can learn from four games. Still, the 2016-17 NHL season opener is Oct. 12.
Games seal player fates, but not by wins and losses. Coaches examined key camp battles by throwing those in them to the wolves Wednesday.
Anaheim had most of its studs in the game. Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell were the only key players scratched. There is speculation both are on the trading block.
Meanwhile, San Jose was without its best five skaters: Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. Expected regulars Tommy Wingels and David Schlemko were also scratched.
Players competed in bigger roles than they are expected to fill. That speaks well of their roster depth.
The Sharks did pretty well considering the imbalance in personnel. They were a couple bounces away from a tie score but could not get one past Jonathan Bernier.
More from Analysis
- Norris Trophy odds show Erik Karlsson a step above the rest
- Korenar deserves a chance at the NHL level
- Three ways the Sharks could move Martin Jones
- San Jose Sharks: Three Keys to Defeating the Chicago Blackhawks
- San Jose Sharks Will Need to “Protect the House” on the Road
San Jose held a slight edge in the event summary statistics: 30-25 faceoffs, 16-18 giveaways, 6-5 takeaways, 21-25 hits, 22-21 shots, 44-38 attempts and 11-10 blocks. Darth Vader would call a clean sweep in all three possession stats plus shots, attempts and blocks “most impressive.”
Both teams started out playing careful hockey. There were only 14 shots and 24 attempts in a scoreless first period.
The Sharks were solid in the second period. Nevertheless, that is when the game got away from them.
A power play-influenced rebound goal by Corey Perry put the Ducks up 7:42 in. The only other score (by Joseph Cramarossa) came on one of the few breakdowns 93 seconds later.
The game was over that fast because of how Bernier played. He turned away the toughest shots. He controlled rebounds.
San Jose’s best line was Barclay Goodrow, Kevin Labanc and Chris Tierney. Martin Jones was excellent and Dylan DeMelo continues to look good.
Not all Sharks had a good game. Mirco Mueller and the now-demoted Tim Heed were on the ice for both goals allowed.
Bay Area distractions
The reality is many in San Jose had other priorities. The SAP Center was below half its capacity crowd.
That is common in the preseason, but Wednesday went beyond the norm. This time, the San Francisco Giants were in the MLB wild card game.
More specifically, Madison Bumgarner was on the mound. Such a distraction is severe enough to warrant space in this column even though it covers another Bay Area sport. Thus it is essential that the San Jose Sharks preseason be put into perspective.
But I Digress…
Bumgarner converts more people into his “Best Postseason Pitcher Ever” camp with each start, and it is close to reaching a consensus. This goes far beyond one big playoff run.
In fact, it is quite the opposite. The only blemishes on Bumgarner’s playoff resume are two games to start the 2012 playoffs. He has only allowed 11 earned runs in over 89 innings otherwise.
He beat the New York Mets with another complete game playoff shutout Wednesday. Opponents have not scored in 23 consecutive postseason innings spanning three Bumgarner wins. Opposing batters are 0-for-24 with runners in scoring position during that time. (Cue Darth Vader again.)
Bumgarner has three complete-game shutouts in 13 career postseason starts. His record is 8-3 and his earned-run average just 1.93. He has also never lost an elimination game.
Bringing it back
No one wants to miss history in the making. Even Dan Boyle announcing his retirement earlier in the day could not compete with the Giants in the playoffs. Nothing competes when Bumgarner is on the hill.
Boyle should not feel slighted. Neither should the Sharks, plus they should also be used to it. After all, they competed with the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area’s attention last spring.
The San Jose Sharks preseason is not an important time to get attention. No time better be because it is not coming. Even the regular season and playoffs dwarfed by the Warriors.
However, the work is still important. The foundation is established now and that happens no matter how few fans see it. The only thing that matters is that coaches and management did.