Photo: Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group
For a game that doesn’t count in the standings, a lot counted for the jobs at stake for the San Jose Sharks. Fresh talent mixed in the lines with seasoned veterans should be a winning combo, but after falling short to the Los Angeles Kings, one thing was very apparent – they still have a long way to go to tighten up their coherency and their roster.
San Jose still doesn’t have a captain, but speaking of leadership, Joe Thornton got on the board quickly, netting one right away, only a minute and 28 seconds into the first period. Jonathan Quick had to wake up quickly in his first game back in the preseason since his wrist surgery in June. But the surgery has not slowed him down, as that was San Jose’s one and only goal for the night, with Martin Jones finishing up the night in the LA net. Even though that one goal for San Jose ignited a surge of excitement and energy in me, anxious for the impending new season with refreshed hope, soon thereafter I was focused solely on the new guys on the ice.
Some notable players included Taylor Fedun, Barclay Goodrow, and Mirco Mueller. They are fighting for solid spots on the roster and that clearly was evident as they hustled along the boards and stayed on top of the puck. Fedun notched his first point in the preseason, assisting on Thornton’s goal. Everywhere the puck was, so was Goodrow, who didn’t have any shots on goal or points, but certainly showed heart and hustle. He also shined in his previous two games, with three goals and an assist. Mueller, who was paired with back-to-defense Brent Burns, got one shot off in the first and had over 21 minutes of ice time.
Drew Doughty answered Thornton’s goal with a power play goal for himself on Tommy Wingels’ cross checking penalty, a little before halfway through the first. San Jose would have two chances on the power play after Doughty’s goal, but registered only 4 total shots. Disappointing, but not surprising. Power plays are only one area of many that they must improve upon.
The Kings and captain Dustin Brown came hurtling out in the second, scoring a goal less than a minute into play and lit the lamp again near the end of the second, from Justin Williams, putting San Jose three goals in the hole.
San Jose does not fare well in the third either, letting another get past Antti Niemi, in his second game of the preseason; his first, a shootout loss against the Arizona Coyotes. Dwight King settled it for the Kings, with a final score of 4-1 at the Tank.
Despite the loss, now five in a row against the Kings, including the playoffs, it’s really refreshing to see new talent. The fans, including myself, are ready for something great to happen. From my perspective, it was immediately apparent that the veterans are taking the newcomers under their wings and guiding them, giving them chances to play the puck and trusting them, but being there as a backup just in case they need a helping hand. I like that. This team needs that kind of leadership. If Thornton, in particular, can keep up this kind of attitude and work ethic, the captaincy could go back to him.
While it was only a preseason game, San Jose’s overall energy was clearly deflated, even with all the new talent on the ice. During post game interviews, head coach Todd McLellan remarked “there were some guys who were playing like it was an exhibition game,” but that he understands it happens. Wingels echoed the sentiment and explained “we didn’t do the best of job adapting to it and our game fell apart.” And Logan Couture nailed it on the head with what I was thinking: “It’s a wake-up call before the season starts.”