It wasn’t pretty but the San Jose Sharks fought off a rough start and finished strong during their four-game series at SAP Center. Tinkering with the forward lines and some ‘Swede’ success carried the Sharks to a 2-1-1 record on home ice.
As the San Jose Sharks turned the page to the second month of the 2018-2019 campaign. A four-game series at The Tank appeared to be the perfect place to cruise to the top of the Pacific Division. However, the Sharks had their work cut out for them on home ice as they faced hungry teams running the California Gauntlet.
The New York Rangers came into town for the season series finale. The San Jose Sharks had revenge on their minds after New York won 3-2 in overtime amidst the Sharks five-game eastern road trip. A similar result would pan out again as the Rangers prevailed with Kevin Shattenkirk’s shootout winner. However, the Sharks earned themselves a point in the dying hopes of the contest.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. With just 1.3 seconds left on the clock, Tomas Hertl unleashed a wraparound shot off the right post and past Henrik Lundqvist to knot the game up. It sent a jolt of excitement through the arena. More importantly, it gave the San Jose Sharks hope and satisfaction that they fought relentlessly to add at least one point at the end of the night.
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The Columbus Blue Jackets were a different story. The San Jose Sharks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to Kevin Labanc’s second goal of the season, but the Blue Jackets responded with four unanswered goals, taking the momentum away from San Jose. Sergei Bobrovsky had an incredible night in goal, with a season-high 44 saves to secure his third win of the year.
Coming off back-to-back losses, Peter DeBoer decided to make changes, giving Antti Suomela a night off for the first time this year. How would it hold up? Well, two days later, the San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers exchanged goals back and forth all night. Three periods wasn’t enough to settle the action. However, all it took was just 13 seconds for Timo Time in overtime. Timo Meier ended the night with a season-best three points, including the Sharks opening goal and game-winner.
To conclude the homestand, the San Jose Sharks welcomed in the Minnesota Wild. Without their captain Eric Staal, who ended his consecutive games streak at 335, the Wild were light at the center position. Nevertheless, the Wild’s top scorer Mikael Granlund rode a league-leading 10-game point streak into the matchup. Although skating a forward-high 21:31 TOI, Granlund was left off of the score sheet.
While it had been the Sharks top-six that contributed the majority the offensive production through the first three home games, the Sharks third line of Sorensen-Thornton-Goodrow manufactured all four goals to lift San Jose over Minnesota 4-3.
It has been “Swede” succcess for some Sharks so far this season, especially from this four-game homestand. Marcus Sorensen collected four points total. Including his best performance of the season with a goal and two assists against the Wild. Sorensen will easily break his season-best seven points, set last year in 32 games. Now, the 26-year-old right-winger has six points in 15 games.
Erik Karlsson has not found the back of the net yet this season. But fear not. A season ago, Brent Burns did not record his first goal until his 21st game of the year and ended up with a team-leading 67 points. Karlsson also has stepped up his defensive prowess these past two games, breaking up 2-on-1 rushes by the visiting teams. Along with Burns, Karlsson continues to set the pace for the Sharks blueline, averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game.
Not only have the Swedish players stood out, but there have been “Fabulous Finnishes” as well. Finnish forwards Antti Suomela and Joonas Donskoi have been a dynamic duo on the third line. Suomela netted a beauty and a pivotal goal that extended the Sharks lead to 3-1 just a minute after the Wild had cut their lead in half. With the speedy Evander Kane, this trio certainly adds tremendous depth to the Sharks forward lines.
The Sharks ended the homestand on a high note. It was their first regulation victory since October 23 on the road against the Nashville Predators. With so much hockey left to play, there is still plenty of breathing room as they hang steadily with the Pacific Division standings.
With that being said, it doesn’t get any easier from here on out. The Sharks face two tough Central Division opponents on road with a back-to-back stretch against the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues. Hopefully, the Sharks can sail smoothly as they continue to knock off critical road contests early into the season. A majority of the home games are yet to come. So sit back and relax, because with time, the Sharks will gain more confidence and chemistry.