The San Jose Sharks have been a barrel of confusion and question for the majority of the first half of the NHL season. They’ve managed to squeak by in the middle of the pack, picking up points in whatever fashion imaginable. On Saturday night the Sharks welcomed one of the leagues most formidable opponents into SAP Center, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fans should take the Sharks impressive 2-0 victory on Saturday night over the Blackhawks as a breath of fresh air. There were many positives from San Jose’s performance. They dominated the face off circle 58%-42% and made sure they put bodies in front of starting goaltender Antti Niemi, blocking 14 shots. They came out on the short end in the shots-on-goal category, being outshot 31-20, but again goaltender Niemi put forth one of his best performances to date, culminating in one of the most spectacular saves he has ever made in teal against Jonathan Toews’ shorthanded breakaway chance during the second period.
While a victory against the powerhouse Blackhawks is something to be celebrated, it’s a microscopic part of the bigger picture as to the look of the Sharks lately.
The last three games the Sharks have played have been against the leagues’ best or teams they’ve personally struggled against in recent seasons. They’ve defeated all three. (These teams of course being the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks).
Against the Kings, the Sharks sent their fans happy into the All Star break, playing an impressive game which showcased the teams new power play look when Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski each tallied goals. Logan Couture added to his endless list of two-goal games by tallying the rest of the Sharks scoring.
After the All Star break and the additional four days of rest the Sharks were granted when it ended, the Western Conference’s top team – the Anaheim Ducks – came to town. This was no normal game against the Ducks, as if any of them are, but it was the final meeting between the two teams for the rest of the season. After scoring five goals in the second period, the Sharks would cruise to victory and end the season series against Anaheim with a respectable record of 4-0-1. In this game, we saw a full arsenal attack from the Sharks roster, as Barclay Goodrow, Marleau, Matt Irwin, James Sheppard and Brenden Dillon all recorded goals. The unusual suspects, as head coach Todd McClellan put it, certainly came up big.
The Blackhawks game was a low scoring affair, with rookie Melker Karlsson netting what would become the game winning goal in the first period and Joe Thornton recording an empty netter in the third. Antti Niemi was in first-star form and was awarded with such honors because of it. With the second half of the season just barely underway, it seems the Sharks are out to make a statement, a statement that, despite the lack of the Stanley Cup, they run things in the Pacific Division, and want everyone to remember who the sheriff in town is.