(both photos: Jim Gensheimer/Bay Area News Group)
After a historic win for Antti Niemi and the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 at the Los Angeles Kings (the first time since 1941 that the Stanley Cup Champion is shut out the first game of the new season), the Sharks needed to continue that winning momentum. “We hope to take momentum from Game 1,” reflected Tommy Wingels to Sharks’ color commentator Jamie Baker before the start of game 2 versus the Winnipeg Jets. And the momentum did carry over.
Alex Stalock, starting for the Sharks, was tested early with an odd-man rush but Marc-Edouard Vlasic answered with a goal 3:22 into game play, his first goal of the season and first point against the Jets. Less than two minutes later, Tomas Hertl netted his first of the season on a breakaway pass from Joe Thornton, quickly making it 2-0.
And then begins the plight of the power plays for the Sharks; they had a total of eight in the game, not capitalizing on a single one – clearly an area for improvement.
The most penalized player was Dustin Byfuglien (with 4 penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct for arguing with the ref on top of a 2-minute penalty). The main point here is that Winnipeg may not be the most disciplined team, and perhaps it was only a bad night for them, but San Jose was not able to take advantage of all that power play time.
With 4 minutes left in the first, the shot clock was imbalanced; San Jose 12, Winnipeg 3. The Sharks ended the period on a power play and thus began the second with the remaining time, but to no avail. It wasn’t until after the power play ended that the Sharks created some good chances, while Winnipeg still struggled to get shots.
About halfway through the second, the Jets had a good stretch of time in the Sharks’ zone, forcing Stalock to play the puck and clearly take advantage of the additional 3 feet in the trap, one of the new rules for the 2014-15 season. Sharks’ Adam Burish closes his hand on the puck, which forces a power play opportunity for Winnipeg, their first of the night. The Jets’ power play is not strong. Last year they ranked dead last, and the year before they ranked 25th. Sharks did a great job in killing the penalty, not allowing the Jets to set up any plays. However, the Jets kept pushing even after the two minutes and got a few shots off. Shot clock: San Jose 21, Jets 9. After another missed power play chance (their fourth) on goaltender interference penalty by Byfuglien, Patrick Marleau scored on his famous breakaway, making it 3-0 Sharks late in the third. It wasn’t over yet though, as the Jets got another opportunity on Joe Pavelski’s hooking call with 6 seconds left and they too began the next period just like how the Sharks started the second.
After the Jets failed to score on their power play, the Sharks got another incredible advantage on a 5 on 3 for 19 seconds and then on a regular power play for the remainder of time. The shot clock did finally start to even out though: San Jose 26, Winnipeg 22. Back-to-back power plays for the Sharks (their sixth and seventh of the night) resulted in nothing but more trips for Byfuglien to the sin bin. As Jamie Baker noted on the TV broadcast, it was “Byfuglien’s first hat trick in penalties.” He ended the night with a game misconduct on top of an unsportsmanlike.
The Sharks didn’t even get a shot on goal in the third period, even with so many power play chances. Head coach Todd McLellan noted in a post-game interview that “I thought our power play absolutely sucked the life out of our team today. It was as weak as it has been in a long, long time and we have some work to do.”
But there was some interesting light to note about the game. It was the first time the Sharks have begun a season with consecutive shut outs, and with two different goalies to boot! That says a lot about the solid wall they have in net. So even though the power play, and entries into the zone, need to be worked on, the Sharks have some formula working in their favor. Another interesting thing to note, the Winnipeg Jets actually ended the night on top with shots with 30 to San Jose’s 26.