Within five minutes of the first game since his minor shoulder injury, Ryane Clowe picked up a point and five penalty minutes. The San Jose Sharks jumped all over the slumping Anaheim Ducks and scored two goals early. Were these aggressive first few shifts Ryane Clowe’s audition for a potential trade? Or are they his vow to will the Sharks into the postseason?
Sharks Chomp Ducks
Ryane Clowe’s first shift on the ice provided all the offense that San Jose would need top the slumping Ducks. Seconds after the television commentator mentioned it was his first action after injury, he jabbed a loose puck behind the Anaheim net that Joe Pavelski wrapped around and buried past Jonas Hiller. About three minutes later, Clowe dropped gloves with Bryan Allen and decisively dominated the Anaheim big man. The fight sent a clear message to not just the Ducks and Sharks, but to the entire league: if Clowe and the Sharks are going to go down, Ryane is going to make sure they go down swinging.
Less than a minute after the fight, the Sharks swarmed a disheveled Ducks defense peppered Hiller with shots. Couture gathered his own rebound from the keeper and fed Patrick Marleau, who was given far too much space. Patty did not waste the chance and beat Hiller off his arm. Antti Niemi was, for once, a bystander and was gifted a shutout that only required two or three difficult saves. Hockey awards goalie-earned and team-earned shutouts to the keepers; but Wednesday, the entire Sharks lineup deserved credit.
Sharks not Counting Playoffs Out Just Yet
The question for the Sharks hovers around two players as the push for the postseason: Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle. The problem with these victories for San Jose is that it complicates what seemed to be a no-brainer a couple days ago. The trade deadline looked to be the time when the Sharks would sell some current stock for a few pieces for the future. But now, with nine goals in two games against the Ducks, the Sharks offense looks right back on track.
The Sharks were a virtually different team on Wednesday. Forwards were outskating opponents, defenders were flinging themselves in front of pucks, and Antti Niemi was relaxed and hardly tested. The Anaheim Ducks, on the other hand looked flat. It was a tale of teams going two different directions… very different directions. The San Jose Sharks are rising. Fast. If they can string together wins in the coming week, the debate over whether they can compete may seem laughable looking back.
Clowe and Boyle Off The Block?
Does this mean that Clowe will stay put? He is still a free agent at season’s end and is desperate to light the lamp at least once before the year is out. However, his hard-work plays on Tuesday led to many chances and the Sharks seemed to be in a different league than their supposed Pacific Division-leading rivals as a result.
Dan Boyle, also may have proven an invaluable asset to a playoff push now that his longtime partner, Doug Murray is gone. Boyle led the Sharks with five blocked shots, the Sharks totaled 30 against Anaheim. He earned an assist on the Wingels goal and had a fight of his own. Boyle now becomes a luxury trade and the Sharks might be able to get some more pop up front for him.
San Jose’s offense leading to two victories over Anaheim could argue that nothing needs to be changed. It is true, this same team won seven in a row to start the season. Perhaps keeping the core together is San Jose’s best bet. Team confidence has to be high in that locker room and guys like Clowe and Couture are chomping at the bit to get a piece of Detroit.
Six More To Go
The Sharks seven-game homestand could not have come at a better time. They have only lost once in regulation at home (to the Chicago Blackhawks in the midst of their torrid start) and opposing teams’ power plays are anemic in the Tank. With the Sharks right at the brink of losing playoff positioning, they find themselves winners of three of four and looking like the Sharks of old. Detroit was already in town and watching the Sharks shred Anaheim. With Wednesday’s players and energy, the Wings (not to mention the rest of the West) could have their hands full.