The reigning Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins were the first team to beat the San Jose Sharks in regulation during the 2013-14 NHL season, and are just the second to accomplish the feat at the SAP Center after winning Saturday, January 11. Both games were tight, defensive struggles.
In fact, Saturday's only goal decided the second game in the final eight minutes: Ryan Spooner got the puck to Loui Eriksson, whose shot was blocked by Scott Hannan and the put back home by Carl Soderberg. Naturally, both goalies and the only goal scorer are among the pictured stars of this contest.
Of course, that is a decisive win compared to their first clash when the game-winner was officially recorded 19 minutes and 59.2 seconds into the third period. Those two Boston wins a combined 7:26 seconds away from not happening account for half of San Jose's regulation losses against the Eastern Conference as well as at home.
Fortunately for the Sharks, the teams cannot meet again until at least the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. (Based on the first two games, that would be an entertaining series.) They clearly had the advantage in the first period, compiling a 12-9 edge in shots. After that, they were frustrated by the Bruins and only got 14 more through in the last 40 minutes.
San Jose dominated the second-best team in the NHL in the circle, winning 40 of 65 draws. Add to that the 13-8 edge in takeaways (both teams had six giveaways) and Boston had a deficit of 20 possessions to make up. Yet one would never know it from the rest of the statistics.
The Sharks had just four more shots (26-22) and one more attempt (60-59). Despite shooting more, they managed more blocks (21-16, with an 18-9 edge after the first period) and almost as many hits (27-28) as the very physical Bruins.
That style has earned them more times shorthanded than 25 other teams, while San Jose spends less time on the penalty kill than all but six teams. Yet Saturday Boston had just one penalty to kill but was on the power play three times.
No special teams goals were scored, but this was one area of the game that the Sharks could have been better in. Another was getting the pucks through the neutral zone, as they looked like they struggled against a trap they are not used to seeing in the Western Conference.
However, overall San Jose played well but Boston needed the first win of their road trip more. Any home loss is disappointing, but consistent efforts like this one are a recipe for success. Teams that win the battles of puck possession and blocked shots against elite opposition are Stanley Cup contenders.
That being said, the competition in the Western Conference and specifically the Pacific Division make earning two points more important than how the team plays. Points left on the ice could derail the title run of a team that is simply better on its own ice than on the road.
After this loss, the Sharks drop five games back of the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. Their point percentage is now just fourth-best in the Western Conference, and their lead over the Los Angeles Kings for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is down to three points.