On Tuesday, the Sharks became the first team in NHL history to start two seasons in a row at 6-0-0. On Thursday, the Dallas Stars put a stop to another 7-0-0 start. The Sharks streak ended with a shootout loss on Thursday night. But was there a problem on San Jose’s squad? Or is there a blueprint to slowing down this Sharks team?
The Sharks streak ended, but this is far from a blueprint. All credit to the Stars for keeping with it and not letting them get away, but many Sharks had a sub-par game. In this league, sub-par usually ends in a loss. Before we tear apart this game, enjoy a thing of beauty from rookie Matt Nieto. This was one of the rare bursts of speed from San Jose all game.
Sharks Streak Ended on Slow Game From Forwards
There was something different about the game played in Dallas on Thursday. While the Sharks streak ended at the hands of the Dallas Stars, the St. Louis Blues can take a little bit of credit for this loss as well. Not to claim that the nasty hit on Dan Boyle disheartened the Sharks (because it ignited them), but the Sharks had a physically and mentally tiring game on Tuesday. The elite team that we have come to expect this season did not show up until the third period and overtime.
With a drop of the puck in the first, the first shot only took eight seconds to arrive. The first goal of the game took nine seconds. Tyler Kennedy got his first goal as a Shark through a triple screen and the hockey world let out a collective groan. “Here they go again,” could almost be heard by every team in the league except the Dallas Stars.
No lead was safe in this game, mainly because the Sharks explosive forwards had no legs on Thursday. The normally aggressive two-way play of the Sharks was flat at times and the Sharks did not dictate the pace of the game. All three of the Stars’ goals came on rebounds that the Sharks failed to sweep away.
Thornton, Marleau, Burns, and Niemi Prove They Are Human
For the first time this season, the Sharks looked mortal. They looked slow. The three forwards played generally sloppy games and were nowhere near their deadly precision of the first six games. The Sharks streak ended when Joe Thornton got crunched in the corner on the first Stars goal and never recovered to help the defense. Even the speedy Marleau looked a little heavy on the ice when he couldn’t quite win a few races he normally would have had handily. Brent Burns seemed to let the gritty Stars defenders get to him a few times as well. He could not establish himself in front of the net.
Then, there’s the most important man on the ice. The last line of defense for the Sharks has been stalwart all season, but Thursday featured a much more shaky netminder. Nemo’s rebound control was definitely off tonight and it resulted in the final two goals. With leads, Antti Niemi saved a pair of long-range efforts but kicked the puck right into the slot. A better backcheck by the Sharks could have prevented both, but as stated earlier, the Sharks just did not have the legs tonight.
The Last Twenty-five Minutes
The latter stages of the third and overtime saw dominance return to the San Jose lineup. Todd McLellan moved Hertl, who had been quiet all night, down to Pavelski’s line in an effort to inject some speed in the game. And it worked. But Dallas netminder, Dan Ellis had other ideas. With eleven shots in the third and six in overtime, Ellis shutdown the Sharks to force the shootout. Many rushes by the Sharks were cut short by the Stars netminder freezing the puck.
While he gave up three goals on the night, Dan Ellis was key to the Stars’ win. The Sharks streak ended because Ellis never allowed those dangerous Sharks swarm sessions. Whenever things got hectic and Ellis found the puck, play stopped. It was too little, too late for the Sharks.
Three saves and a wicked wrist shot later, the Stars handed San Jose its first loss. The Sharks took a point out of the contest, however. This Stars team is tough and it is not a secret that the Sharks are better at home than they are on the road. Shortly after just missing beating the Avalanche, the Stars established themselves as a great team.