Joe Pavelski was really upset he didn’t come home from Russia with a medal. So upset that he led the charge against Philadelphia on Thursday. Scoring his 2nd career hat trick to lead the Sharks to a 7-3 romp over the Flyers, Pavelski overshadowed the returns of Raffi Torres and Logan Couture. Team Teal dominated the second period and the Sharks rout Flyers headlines flew off the presses.
Torres and Couture Return
With both forwards playing limited minutes in their returns to the lineup, they wasted no time making a major impact. Couture was playing on his usual second line center role with Patrick Marleau, while Raffi took his minutes down on a rough and tumble fourth line with Andrew Desjardins and Mike Brown. Both found themselves semi-sheltered as Todd McLellan made sure they were even deployed across zones. Both players finished the night with a 50/50 split in terms of shifts started in the offensive zone vs the defensive zone.
Torres scored in the first period in his usual way: scrapping in front of the net. An innocent wrist shot from the point found its way to the front of the net where Torres was locked with a Flyer defenseman for position. Raffi got free and deposited the easy rebound. Couture did his best impression of that goal in a second period dominated by San Jose with a quick rebound of another shot just out in front. Both boys were back. At that point, Steve Mason’s night was over. But the Sharks were not nearly done.
Sharks Rout Flyers With Deadly Second Period
Joe Pavelski’s three goals all came in the second period which saw the momentum swing to the Sharks after a first period largely controlled by the guys in orange. Todd McLellan admit after the game “We didn’t have a lot of purpose in our game in the first period, especially in their zone.” But the forecheck turned on and all of a sudden, Mason was being barraged with pucks.
Contrary to his fellow goal scorers, Joe Pavelski has been the beacon of consistency in San Jose this season. He’s played in all 60 games for San Jose this season and didn’t get much time off during the Olympic break as he was busy helping Phil Kessel score goals. Even more contrary to Torres and Couture, Pavelski was near the bottom in terms of his deployment. His 31.3% means he started 2 out of every 3 shifts in his own zone with his back to the wall to start. He took key faceoffs (also most on his team) in front of Alex Stalock and controlled the puck 58.8% of the time.
Warning Shot to the West
This is the most complete, in terms of health, the Sharks have been all season. Missing only Tomas Hertl (who no-one thought would be as important as he is) from the forward core, the Sharks showed how they could roll four lines of shooters and dominate possession. The Jumbo line up top can neutralize any other forward line in the league. Marleau and Couture bring a deadly mix of speed and shooting to the second line. Pavelski and whoever McLellan picks out of a hat to match him with find ways make lives miserable on the best third line in hockey. And the fourth line might feature a former MVP candidate with Marty Havlat and some guys who really want nothing more than to put some people on their backs.
The Sharks only sit five points back of the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the Pacific and the #1 seed in the West. With this team getting healthy at the perfect time, don’t be surprised if you see a winning streak emerge.