Sharks Chomp Canucks, Send West a Message

I hate to say it… who am I kidding, I love it… I told you so.  The Vancouver Canucks came into this season trying to shake away old demons.  They got rid of an underachieving playoff coach, ended their goalie controversy, and forgot all about their shameful exit last year.  Then the season started.  Then, that Sharks chomp Canucks headline came back.

Sharks chomp Canucks
(Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Sharks Chomp Canucks: Game Recap

The first period of the 2013-14 season did not look like vintage Sharks hockey.  Outside of an early power play opportunity where they swarmed and peppered the net with shots, the boys in teal looked plain sloppy.  The Canucks just looked hungrier.  Vancouver definitely played a more aggressive game and came out of the gates sharp.

The Sharks did take a 16-7 lead in terms of shots by the end of the first, but it was mostly broken up periods of pressure.  Roberto Luongo made a few great saves to keep the lead.

But early in the second period, captain Thornton forced a turnover in the neutral zone that Tomas Hertl pounced on.  He broke in with Brent Burns and fed the hairy forward who didn’t miss.  From then on, the game looked much like what Sharks-Canucks games did all of last season.

With the exception of one point, the Sharks dominated the remaining time.  That point, was the power play.  The Sharks went 0-8 on the man-advantage including a full two-minute 5-on-3 that only mustered a few quality chances.

Justin Braun put a shot by Luongo late in the second once Logan Couture put a screen on in front of the netminder.  At 2-1, the Sharks never looked back.

The third period was more of the same with Roberto Luongo standing tall for Vancouver.  He definitely held them in the game with a few prime saves.  On the other end, Antti Niemi was hardly tested.  But finally, the superstar line got traction.  Logan Couture corralled a puck on the boards and flung a pass straight to Marleau’s tape.

Moments later, Tommy Wingels cashed in on a vintage Canucks broken play.  The Sharks chomp Canucks on plays just like that one.  A simple puck in the corner turned into goal number four as Desjardins and Wingels pounced.

Niemi was only really called upon for one huge save midway through the third and was mostly relaxed.  The game finished with more chippy play by the Canucks and seemed to foreshadow the new rivalry of the season.

Who Smelled Blood in the Water?

sharks chomp canucks
(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Tomas Hertl

The youngster set the tone early in this game.  He was throwing his body around and doing dirty work.  He may have been paired with the gritty guys like Thornton and Burns, but no-one expected him to get in on the hitting.  He showed an immediate desire to be a part of the team.  His big smile and limited English have made him somewhat adorable in the locker room so far.  Hopefully, his hard work and hits continue throughout the season.  His pairing with the captain will make for immediate success.  Look for more plays like the one that resulted in his first point to happen all season long.

Dan Boyle

Questions abounded last year whether or not Dan Boyle could keep up with the pace of the NHL.  “He’s too old, he’s too slow” were just a few of the comments being thrown around.  Thursday, however, he proved he still had the stuff.  He was often the man slowing the play down to get help from the forwards.  Boyle also displayed his huge slapshot has not left him either.  A few booming blasts were heard at SAP Center.

Logan Couture

sharks chomp canucks
No goals, but plenty of effort plays (Tony Medina/Icon SMI)

The future.  Everyone knows it’s coming sooner or later.  He’ll have a “C” on his chest within the next few seasons.  While I was ranting at home about no-one getting in front of Luongo’s face, Couture was listening to me (obviously).  Almost immediately, he jumped in front and Lou didn’t even see the second goal.  In the post-game interview, he claimed his assist on the third goal to Marleau was because he heard him shout.  His hockey sense allowed him to feel out where his linemate was and hit him in stride.  Couture played an almost perfect game.  I say almost because he just barely missed out on blocking Garrison’s shot on the power play that resulted in Vancouver’s only goal.

Who Has Room for Growth?

Really only one player seemed to struggle on the night for San Jose.  While all helped the Sharks chomp Canucks on Thursday, Joe Pavelski could not find his focus.

Sharks chomp Canucks
Could this moment still be haunting him? (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

The best third-line center in the league whiffed on multiple attempts on the power play.  He may be feeling the effects of Raffi Torres’ injury.  Joe just didn’t have the talent around him that he is used to.  But it might just be early season jitters.  Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch how he bounces back.

The power play itself was also pitiful, but no doubt McLellan will make that a focus on practice.

The Message

The Canucks are not a bad team.   But the Sharks know how to beat them.  I plan to use “Sharks Chomp Canucks” multiple times this season.  The teal jerseys will be in Tortorella’s nightmares all season.  But, like I said, the Canucks are not bad.  They will likely make the playoffs.  The Sharks set the tone for a season as a legitimate contender.  Last season, the Sharks couldn’t buy a goal at even-strength.  But their power play picked them up.  On Thursday, they had no power play whatsoever and won handily.  Put simply, they didn’t have their A-game.  No A-game but an easy victory.

Long story short, watch out for Sharks in the water.