Hockey is back. For the San Jose Sharks, it started with a brutal reminder. Wednesday night forced Sharks fans to watch a 40 minute ceremony of the Kings Stanley Cup win. But it ended on a very high note. The Sharks played a near perfect game and demolished the flat-footed Los Angeles Kings. While Wingels, Marleau, and Nieto netted the goals, it was two new faces that won the night. The Sharks rookies were phenomenal.
Sharks Rookies Starting Fast
Whether it was Logan Couture in 2010 or Tomas Hertl last season, the Sharks rookies of recent years have been impact players. This season, two rookies made the opening night roster for San Jose. Chris Tierney and Mirco Mueller both made their NHL debuts and wasted no time getting to work.
The commentators on NBC Sports did everything they could to hype up how angry the Sharks were about last season. They spent much of the early stages of the game talking about the tumultuous offseason and the captaincy. But soon, the play of two youngsters and the domination of the Sharks won out.
Eventually, the TV commentary team began to rave about the Sharks rookies. The talk of “in the midst of crisis” turned to the brilliance of the young guns for San Jose.
Mirco Shuts Down Kings
Back at the prospects scrimmage, Mirco Mueller looked confident and deliberate. I said he seemed to look like he knew he already had a roster spot. Tonight, he proved why he won that spot. His positioning was perfect all night and he even earned some time on the penalty kill. He also drew a penalty from Mike Richards on a boarding call in the second period.
The most exciting highlight of the night was on a break for the Kings while the game was still close. Marian Gaborik got behind the Sharks defense along the boards and was streaking towards Niemi. From the other side of the ice, Mueller chased down the playoff superstar and kept him from cutting in and getting into a decent position to shoot. One of the two Sharks rookies kept Antti Niemi’s job easy.
Mueller just chased down Gaborik. This kid is good
— Kenneth Laws (@Kenneth_LawsTHW) October 9, 2014
Even the knock that his coach had on him was answered. Coach Todd McLellan said he wished that Mueller would “add some snarl to his game.” More than a few times, Mirco cleared Niemi’s crease of black sweaters and got into the scrums on the boards. He even delivered a hit onto Kings captain Dustin Brown. With no penalty on the play, John Scott or Mike Brown should take some notes.
Chris Cruises in Debut
Tierney was paired with Tommy Wingels and Tye McGinn on the third line. That third line was the most effective line of the night. They were disruptive and effective on the forecheck. Wingels and Tierney displayed blistering speed all night. Tierney was the first of the two Sharks rookies to earn a penalty, and he honestly was hosed on another call he didn’t get.
Chris proved his worth during the preseason as a leader in the making. Tierney was vocal and physical in all aspects of his game. This isn’t surprising considering his captaincy for London in the OHL. His speed and quick hands, however, were very prominent tonight as he seemed up to the task of breaking down the reigning champion defense. He frequently turned Kings defenders around and forced them out of position.
Sharks Outlook Very Good
Sure, it’s one game and hardly a predictor of things to come. But great seasons have to start somewhere. These two players are being inducted into a team in the middle of “leadership change” where four assistant captains exist. Where some would see that as weak leadership, I see it as having four voices to guide them. And even after that veteran presence, the coaching staff is there to mold these young talents.
If Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl are any indicator of Sharks development, then the two new Sharks rookies are on a path to success.