Opportunistic Sharks Put the Ducks on the Ropes

Before each playoff game, the San Jose Sharks have a local celebrity open the door to the locker room as the team heads to the ice. Before the third game of the series against the Anaheim Ducks, the honor went to champion boxer Andre Ward. He first gained fame by winning an Olympic gold medal, then as a professional he was unbeaten in 32 fights. He was often considered the best ‘pound for pound’ boxer in the world. Andre Ward knows what a beatdown is. What he witnessed in the Sharks 8-1 victory over the Ducks was a beatdown he’d be proud of.

The Opening Period

The Sharks and Ducks played an interesting opening period. It ended tied at 1-1. The Sharks struck first. Mikkel Boedker simply outskated Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm up the right wing and turned the corner towards the net. It was essentially a 3-on-1 at this point; Boedker coming in from the side with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl driving to the net front. Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour was unable to cover everybody. Or anybody. Boedker found Couture in front for the Sharks’ first odd-man rush goal of the night. This is something the Sharks have done often this series, and they’d do it often in this game.

Mikkel Boedker
The Sharks Mikkel Boedker (89) skating against Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

A Sharks power play failed near the midpoint of the period and just moments after it ended, the Ducks earned a power play of their own. Sharks goalie Martin Jones played a brilliant game, but during the Ducks power play, he left a small open area on the far post for Rickard Rakell. The Ducks sniper doesn’t need much more than a small area and his one-timer rung off the post and into the net to even the score.

The Sharks were the more dangerous team in the opening period, including a breakaway chance for Chris Tierney five minutes into the game. Still, the Ducks managed to control their share of play and outshot the Sharks, 11-8.

The Sharks Fast Break Second Period

Just over a minute into the second period, Montour lost an edge trying to handle the puck in the neutral zone. All series long, when opportunity knocks, the Sharks have answered. Montour’s slip immediately led to a Sharks a 2-on-1 odd man rush. The Sharks scored, with Joonas Donskoi scoring on the feed from Evander Kane.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour
Brandon Montour (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

But the Sharks odd man rushes didn’t end there. Two minutes later, fourth line forward Marcus Sorensen scored on another 2-on-1 break, this time Donskoi provided the feed.

The Ducks pushed hard against the Sharks in the period. Indeed, they got 19 shots on goal against Jones in the second period. Jones was up to the task, stopping them all, several requiring good saves. The Ducks frustration increased in the process. It’d be a stretch to say Jones “stole” a game which ended 8-1, but Jones was deservedly the game’s top star.

At the 13:43 mark, the Sharks’ Eric Fehr, another fourth line forward, outmuscled the Ducks Andrew Cogliano before putting the puck past both Francois Beauchemin and goalie John Gibson. At this point, the Sharks led 4-1. At this point, the Ducks poise vanished.

A minute later, a full-on scrum took place in Jones’ crease. After the scrum cleared and players reclaimed their scattered gear, the Ducks were back on the penalty kill. They got about three-quarters of the way through before a slashing call put them down two players. And while the Ducks held off the brief 5-on-3, the Sharks cashed in while a man up. Hertl scored on the power play, the beneficiary of superb passing. It was the first of four consecutive power play goals for the Sharks. The period ended with the score 5-1.

The Sharks Power Play Third Period

Gibson, who was about as good as one could be while giving up five goals, had his night ended after the second period, handing the nets to Ryan Miller for the final period. The Ducks, as they have done often this series, decided it’d better to meltdown in the face of adversity than battle through it.

Ryan Getzlaf took a pair of minors in the period. It was laughable to see Getzlaf trying to draw Sorensen into a fight. Sorensen happens to be the smallest Sharks player, giving up six inches and perhaps 50 pounds to Getzlaf. Not exactly picking on someone his own size. Moments into his first shift after exiting the penalty box, Getzlaf earned a 10 misconduct (with about nine minutes left in the game), ending his night.

Marcus Sorensen
Marcus Sorensen (John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)

Also in the period, Corey Perry drew a penalty for the third game in a row. Ryan Kesler drew his third minor penalty of the series. Brandon Montour drew a penalty for the second game in a row.

The Sharks scored three power play goals in the period on five Ducks minor penalties. The Ducks played well for a sizable chunk of the game and still managed to lose ugly – in more ways than one. They took numerous cheap shots along the way, especially late in the game.

The Ducks End In Sight?

Both Getzlaf and Gibson had shortened nights, perhaps they’ll be fresher for Game 4. For the Sharks, Brent Burns missed the last half of the final period. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer indicated Burns is fine, but its not like NHL coaches always tell the whole truth. Especially during the playoffs. These aren’t exactly great beacons of hope for the Ducks, but they haven’t given much reason for hope.

Brent Burns (88) skating with Joe Pavelski (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Sharks lead the series 3-0 and in each game, poise has been an important difference. They’ve been the consummate opportunists. When the Ducks err, the Sharks cash in.

For the third game in a row, the Sharks outpoised the Ducks. There are simply no signs the Ducks even know how to find it. Even in a game where they played well for a considerable portion of the game, they still made key mistakes. While good teams find ways to overcome adversity, the Ducks create more adversity for themselves and let it overwhelm them.

On Wednesday, the Sharks can close out the series against a team more interested in extracting a pound of flesh instead of an ounce of dignity. The Sharks have been faster, their goaltending has been better and they’ve let the other team beat themselves.

Andre Ward knows what a beatdown is. After opening the Sharks door, he witnessed the Sharks execute one. Ward also knows when you have an opponent on the ropes, you finish him. Unless something major changes for Anaheim, the Sharks will finish the job on Wednesday.

Zeke’s Notes

• The Sharks set a number of marks in the game, with eight different goal scorers among them. But it was Jones’ superb game, especially his 19-save second period, which was the biggest story. As long as Jones is playing this well, the Sharks will have success. It is worth noting, the Ducks outshot the Sharks in each period, finishing with 46 shots on goal.

• While every Sharks forward earned a point in the game, only Vlasic earned one among Sharks defensemen.

• The three players who wear a letter for Anaheim have spent plenty of time in the penalty box this series. Kesler (A) and Perry (A) each have three minors (a fourth happened at the end of a game) while Getzlaf (C) has four.