(Lowe warms up prior to the game. Photo courtesy Pink Puck’s Tasha Hudick)
On Thanksgiving Day Eve, the San Jose Sharks hosted division rival Calgary Flames. The Flames have found a way to win so far this season, being one of the league’s surprise teams with 13 wins and 28 points, prior to this matchup. Goaltender Jonas Hiller faced his former team, the Anaheim Ducks, the night before but got the night off against San Jose. The story for the Sharks’ crease was a bit crazier. With Alex Stalock on IR as of November 12, Troy Grosenick was called up from the Worcester Sharks to step in and played two games to give Antti Niemi a rest on the long road trip. Then, Grosenick was injured during Tuesday’s practice and all of a sudden, the Sharks were out of a backup goalie. They signed former San Jose State Spartans alumnus Ryan Lowe to a goaltender professional tryout agreement as Niemi’s backup… just in case.
The Sharks had their work cut out for them facing the top shot-blocking team in the NHL. Regardless of their opponent however, offense and getting past the blockers have been a season-long issue for the club. “We were talking earlier in the year trying to fix the defensive part and now we’re trying to fix the offensive part,” reflected Todd McLellan.
Each team had a power play opportunity in the first period and both came up empty-handed. Also, each team had about the same amount of shots on goal. Thus far it seemed like two very evenly matched opponents. Joe Thornton stood out with 63% in the faceoff circle and Logan Couture led the team with shots (3) during the first. Showing signs of a solid offense in the first period, the most important aspect of offense – scoring – was nonexistent.
Some 4-on-4 action persued in the second period. Six minutes into the second, TJ Brodie and Tommy Wingels each got roughing calls and were sent to their boxes. The Sharks showed more signs of offensive play with a great pass to Patrick Marleau from Thornton – the best scoring chance so far for the team. The heat continued to rise as little scuffs continued throughout, notably with one between Joe Pavelski and Curtis Glencross. Pavelski usually never gets involved in these sorts of scuffles, and perhaps it was an attempt to get his team fired up when they needed to the most.
The Flames got on the board first, though, Jiri Hudler‘s first on the night.
Right before the third period, the Sharks’ color commentator Jamie Baker spoke with Sharks’ associate coach Larry Robinson. He noted that they must keep the structure in the offensive zone and just be patient. The Sharks are getting scoring chances, but something is keeping them from scoring. Perhaps by staying diligent and focused they will be able to net one.
But it wouldn’t happen in this game. The Sharks caught an unlucky break and ended the game on a penalty kill that resulted in an empty net goal by Hudler. This was the first time the Flames have shut out the Sharks on their ice since 2001. At least this one did not go to a shootout, as had their last two home games, that both ended in defeat. The Sharks lost this one, fair and square.
And even though they continue to outshoot their opponents every game, they are still unable to capitalize. It’s easy to get stuck in a negative mindset, but Marleau said it best in a post-game interview: “I think the chances are there. I think it’s, hopefully, like the big build up of a dam and it’s going to break soon and we’ll start getting on a winning streak.”
Next up, the Sharks host the Anaheim Ducks, sure to be a rough and tough game.