The San Jose Sharks have had little to offer in the second period so far this season. With a minus-nine rating in the middle frame, the team entered this game looking to improve this struggle. After almost a week off, the Sharks had plenty of time to prepare for the game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Also new were many of the line combinations for San Jose. All but the third line saw massive changes, especially with the fourth line being centered by rookie Sasha Chmelevski who slotted into his first game. The game was up and down, but the Sharks were able to win in the shootout.
Defensive Meltdowns in Second Period
While the Sharks jumped to an early lead and dominated the first period in offensive chances, they saw many flaws defensively in the second period. Unfortunately, the franchise’s former star defensive defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, was at the forefront of these woes.
On the first goal, a nice play from Anaheim. A faceoff win leads to a quick shot from the point, that bounces around for a shot from Adam Henrique. Vlasic’s play on boxing out his man left a lot to be desired, and the Sharks allowed a tying goal.
The next two for the Ducks were on very preventable plays by San Jose. The second goal was the product of a poor line change by the Sharks’ fourth line, setting up a 2-on-2 rush that saw Troy Terry fire a wrist shot just under the bar. The third and final of the period came off a Vlasic turnover, in which he thought he had support from his defense partner.
The Sharks were outshot 13-3 in the middle frame, and dropped to a minus-13 rating for the second period on the season. A clear theme this year has been allowing the opposition back in the game in the second period. Many of these woes have led to repercussions in the third period.
This was also true for this game. Vlasic saw very little ice time in the third period, seeing Nikolai Knyzhov and Radim Simek share his second pairing role. Chmelevski only skated once in the third period, a sure sign of coach Bob Boughner making evaluations mid-game, which ended up paying off in spades.
Third Period Dominance and Adjustments
San Jose was able to win the third period 3-1, en route to an epic comeback. This started with the first line, which scored less than 40 seconds into the final period. On a great play, driving to the net, the captain sparked the comeback.
The next two goals saw two of the team’s best players give the Sharks a lead. The theme of this season from Boughner is the team’s “best players being our (the Sharks’) best players.” Repeated multiple times this season, Brent Burns and Evander Kane used their high skill level to help the team.
The main adjustments ahead of the third period, besides the Vlasic demotion, saw increased minutes for Dylan Gambrell and Noah Gregor, both of whom had three shots on goal. While the Sharks did allow a game-tying goal with less than 10 minutes remaining, the third-period comeback saw great play by San Jose, en route to winning in the shootout.
Thoughts for Next Game
Other than Devan Dubnyk, who has looked quality recently, lineup changes for the next game are not determined. With Sasha Chmelevski only seeing ice once in the third, it is very possible a new forward slots into the next game. Rudolfs Balcers will join the team tomorrow, back from a conditioning assignment in the AHL, and could start. Stefan Noesen is also scratched, as well as Kurtis Gabriel and Maxim Letunov on the taxi squad.
The defense pairings are going to see movement, with Boughner announcing the lineup will start differently than it did in the first against Anaheim. Whether that means flipping Simek and Vlasic on the lineup card, or seeing a new player join the lineup is unknown. Vlasic had five shifts in the third, and Knyzhov had four, which shows a lot. Vlasic’s three giveaways were the most in the game.
Regardless the lineup changes, there is a similar theme for the Sharks’ second game after a week off: the second period must be better. Outshot by 28 in the second period this season, the Sharks cannot rely on third-period heroics and lineup changes to win games. A complete, three-period game is a requirement for San Jose to continue winning moving forward.