The Sharks. Everyone tries to talk about this rivalry as a "replacement" for the Hawks when realignment occurs. Fiddle faddle.
Before tonight's shootout win, the team from San Jose had won twice in about twelve games (2-9-1 I think ). Sorry Sharks fans, but that is not much of a rivalry. That is more like Canucks versus the Flames. Always intense, and a little bit nasty, but not a RIVALRY like the Blackhawks. Maybe if the Vancouver team faces the Sharks in the playoffs a few more times.
For all that though, they sure do get up for these games. A quirk in the scheduling saw the Sharks facing the Canucks in their first game since they lost at home last week, while the Canucks had played two times in the interim.
Whatever. This is a solid team, and you knew that the above numbers would not hold forever. The visitors got the extra point this time. On to the next one.
NHL ( lots of good saves in the clip bank tonight! )
It turns out the Sharks are not afraid of the #1 power play in the NHL. They sure did not play like it, anyhow. Less than three minutes in, they took their first penalty, when Douglas Murray reacted to a Bieksa pinch with a bear hug for a holding call. They had a couple saves from Niemi, and a pretty hilarious dive by Jumbo Joe on not much from Salo that Tim Peel shook his head on, but the Canucks were not able to cash it in. It would be a theme tonight, that.
Another theme was Joe Thornton passing to the wrong guys. He had two very bad turnovers in the first, and without Niemi, they may have both ended up in the back of the net. Perhaps the booing was getting to him, or maybe its just the New Year's celebrations extended too long into the new year.
Perhaps it was the three power plays in the first to one for the Sharks that got the momentum going, but for whatever reason, it was the Canuck team with more jump, winning more puck battles, and giving their team the opportunity to score. That they did not was in part Niemi, but also the rest of the guys sacrificing the body and blocking shots. ( they blocked 8 shots to 3 for the home team in the first )
For all of that, it was an odd man rush, and poor systems play by the visitors that was the cause of the first goal. Canuck watchers will know that when you see the defenseman jump up in the offensive zone, a forward is going back to cover. They do that very well. The Sharks tried to activate their defense, but they are not as used to doing that as the home team tonight. When Brent Burns jumped in way too deep, no one was anywhere near the blue line. It led to a three on one the other way. Jannik Hansen and Cody Hodgson played give and go, and looked to have got in too far, but the shot from Hansen went in off a hard charging McGinn trying to get back for the opening goal.
They had another chance on a dumb penalty by Murray, but could not cash it in. The teams exchanged the man advantage, and there was a fair amount of Sedin Time ( 4 on 4 ), but they just could not extend their lead in a period where they were the better team.
numbers ; The Canucks were dominant in the circle in the first, going 12 of 17, with Manny Malhotra and Henrik Sedin leading the way at 4/6. They had 9 shots to 6 for the visitors, and it was San Jose ( led by Joe "Smell my finger" Thornton with 2 ) that had the only giveaways, at 3-0 in that stat. The only column they were leading in was the hit count, at 11-8. Alex Edler led his team in ice time at 9:25, and had 2 of the 3 blocks the Canucks had. Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin each had 2 shots to lead their team, while Captain Hank , surprisingly, had 2 hits to lead that stat for his team.
For all the good that came out of the first period, the second period was not good for the home team. The Sharks got lucky on their first goal, though they did do a good job of holding the puck in. Kevin Bieksa got the puck in that "spot" on the knee where there is just nothing you can do. Everyone that has played knows that pain, when it hits you where the pad is not. Like Cheech said, it is like it hits a nerve. He was felled beside the net, and that left Ferrioro alone in front. ( EDIT ; From the post game talk, the puck AND Ferrioro got Bieksa. He looks to have slashed him at the knee when he was coming out front. Hard for the refs...the puck got there at about the same time. Thats the scuttlebutt though ) The first shot was saved, and while Bieksa took a weak swipe at the puck on the second shot, he could do little, and the puck got by Luongo, already down after the first two saves.
That goal was followed by a power play, when Andrew Ebbett swiped at a puck and got a defenseman instead(Demers). The Sharks did not score, but had six shots. "Stinkfinger" had the very best chance in close, on a slick Marleau pass, but he was flat out robbed by the goaltender. It was a sick save, but the momentum seemed to flow from that man advantage.
Perhaps all the travel and games lately had something to do with it, but I don't like to use that. They all have to play 82 games, and while San Jose had the scheduling advantage this time, these guys are all payed big money to treat this as a job, and always be ready for "work".
Ballard was alone with Patrick Marleau in front on the second goal for the San Jose team, and had him tied up pretty good, but not his stick. There was plenty of blame to go around. Defenders and forwards alike ( Alberts and Daniel Sedin ) had a chance to clear the puck, but did not. A point shot was tipped by Pavelski, preventing Luongo from getting better control of the rebound, and Marleau swept it home to give his team a one goal lead.
Keith Ballard, who did not have the best game, had a very egregious turnover at his own line that let Joe "the Mad Proctologist" Thornton have a clear break in from the line not long afterwards. His 2010 buddy robbed him to prevent another goal in a period where the home team was second to pucks.
Joe returned the favour not much later with yet another turnover, and sent Cody Hodgson in alone. He was not able to get the puck high enough to beat Niemi, and a solid 4th line shift for the Canucks seemed to turn the momentum a bit. The second ended with the visitors having a one goal lead, but the late play in the period mitigated their dominance somewhat.
numerical events ; The Sharks definitely wanted this one. You can tell when a team is willing to block shots, because, you know, blocking shots hurts. In addition to the 14-4 advantage ( Clowe had 4 himself ), they probably blocked a bunch more with sticks turning pucks over the glass. It made the shots advantage look even better for the Sharks, as they had a 17-7 edge in shots in the middle period. The hit count evened up at 14 apiece, with both Bieksa and Alberts accounting for 3 each. Mason Raymond was buzzing, as he had 3 shots in that period to lead his team with 4 after two. Malhotra was best in the faceoff circle at 6/8, while Cody Hodgson was perfect after two, with an assist and 10 shifts in his 6:40 TOI after 40 minutes.
The Sharks seemed like they wanted to just give this one away in the third, however. First, it was Jason Demers getting faked out by Kevin Bieksa and tripping him less than two minutes in. Then, it was Brent Burns with a high sticking infraction where he actually took Henrik's lid off while raking him with the stick. But even with over a minute of a two man advantage, the Canucks were not able to cash it in. The Sharks penalty kill deserves a lot of the credit, as they did a fabulous job selling out, just getting pieces of pucks, or, getting a save from Antti Niemi. He did not look that good doing it, as it seems is his style, but the puck was kept out.
Then, about the only thing that I really had a problem with, officiating wise. Roberto Luongo may have played the puck just outside the trapezoid ( replays were inconclusive, and it looked to me that the puck was just on the line after he fumbled it and played it the second time ), but how in the hell does Tim Peel see that from the other side, with two guys between him and the line. Simple, he did not. He let Joe Thornton call the penalty, who was waving his arms like a crossing guard to get his attention.
It made little difference, as this was the best PK for the Canucks on the night. After killing that penalty off, they got another chance for their top ranked special teams to do something, on a very smart play by Alex Burrows. He left a puck until he had rolled out over the line to negate an offside, and then his hard move on the puck forced Ryanne Clowe to take a penalty or let him break to the net.
The top unit had a couple chances, and some pressure, but it was the second unit that got set up and put the pressure on. After Dan Hamhuis jumped on a puck in the corner, Burns was left with the choice of covering Hodgson or Raymond in front. Silent G made a subtle play, getting just high enough in the slot to be free of Burns, and a nice pass from Dan Hamhuis was slammed home to give the power play a goal they really needed. 2-2.
After that, it was mainly the home team that had the pressure. Joe Pavelski had a half break that was denied by Luongo, and he made two huge saves, the second without his stick, on the best late pressure for the Sharks, but this game was going to overtime. ( it got there because Torrey Mitchell, alone on a badly played 2 on 2 by Juicy Hammer) was a second too late, as he beat Luongo with a shot on a rolling puck, but not the clock.
The Sharks finally got a huge break in the recent games between these two teams. Kevin Bieksa made a nice shot, but it was Dan Hamhuis that had an open net on the rebound, and hit the far post instead. It should have been the Sharks muttering as they went off the ice right there, but them's the breaks, right?
Both goalies were very good in the
tiddlywinks, backgammon , checkers , shootout, with the only goal coming after Ryan Kesler beat Niemi but not the post on the third attempt for the home team. Handzuz used his great reach to deke Roberto and beat him high stick side for the point deciding goal.
digits ; It seemed the teams stopped hitting, or the stats guy stopped counting them, as the final tally was 17-17 each, only 3 hits each in the third and O/T. The home team dominated the faceoffs against one of the best teams on the draw, winning 38 of 62 draws. Kesler was 14/22, and Malhotra 8/11 to lead the way. The Sharks rode that second period to have a 35-29 edge in shots, but the Sharks were a whopping 24-7 in the blocks stat. The Canucks actually directed more pucks (64-56) at the net. So, credit where it is due. Without Douglas Murray blocking 7 shots, and Clowe another 5 for half their teams total, perhaps a few of those point shot bombs get through, especially on the power play. Daniel Sedin led his team with 6 shots, while Raymond had 5. Best stat line for the Canucks? Godson had a goal and an assist, +1, 2 shots, 1 takeaway and 1 giveaway during 17 shifts and 13:37 TOI.
On to a big game on Wednesday. The Canucks welcome the Wild. They are currently 3 points up on them in the Northwest. A win and they are 5 points up, with both teams having played 41 games. Time to put them in their place.