With a mishmash of lineups featuring a number of career AHL players, it is difficult to take much away from the first couple preseason games. That said, there were positives to highlight from the two games that the Sharks played up in British Columbia against the Vancouver Canucks.
Team Defense & Penalty Kill
Remember, two preseason games is such a limited sample that all of these takeaways should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it is worth noting that San Jose did allow just one goal over the first two games, zero in regulation. The lone goal came on a delayed penalty during three-on-three overtime. While goaltenders Troy Grosenick, Aaron Dell and Martin Jones all made a few quality saves, neither of them were having to come up with amazing save after amazing save due to defensive breakdowns. The five guys in front were generally doing a good job keeping Vancouver players to the outside. San Jose killed off all of their penalties, going a perfect six-for-six in Tuesday’s 4-0 win.
While he didn’t have to make any jaw dropping saves, Jones played the entire game on Tuesday, stopping all 30 shots he faced. The 25-year old looked like an established veteran out there, playing his angles to a tee and made some above average saves look easy. At six-feet-four Jones takes up a large part of the net when he goes down in the butterfly. As long as the Sharks skaters can do a good job limiting cross ice passes and clearing the front of the net, it will be hard for other teams to beat Jones straight up.
A lot of fans and media alike seem to think that winger Barclay Goodrow belongs in the AHL and that shocks me. Goodrow played 60 NHL games last season, chipped in 12 points and showed he could be an effective penalty killer. Playing in both the first two preseason games Goodrow showed more of the same. Offensively he used his speed and size to get in on the forecheck and cycled well with linemates Ben Smith and Matt Nieto. Defensively Goodrow was reliable as usual, more than willing to sacrifice his body to block shots. A six-foot-two, 215 pound winger with good speed and a tremendous defensive work ethic is exactly the kind of player you want as a fourth line left wing.
Those who select three stars of the game are often way off. Jones was selected first star for his shutout performance with 30 saves but most people watching Tuesday’s game will tell you the most noticeable player on the ice was Tomas Hertl. The 21-year old was net front on three of the four Sharks goals, getting credit for one of them that went off his leg. Hertl also earned an assist on one of the other tallies for a two point night. Not only was Hertl getting to the paint to cause traffic for the goaltender but he is clearly skating better through these first two exhibition games than he was last season. This offseason I predicted a big bounce back year for Hertl, and that seems all the more likely after watching him early in the preseason.
Sixth Defense Spot
Mirco Mueller has looked strong on the blue line thus far but I still expect the 20-year old to start the season with the Barracuda and play big minutes developing in the AHL. As for who takes the sixth spot, it seems very clear to me that Matt Tennyson should get the nod over Dylan Demelo. The latter still seems very tentative and unsure of himself whereas the older, more mature Tennyson has shown a much better ability to breakout of the defensive zone.