Anyone not seeing the San Jose Sharks beat their hosts might take a look at the scoring and think it was a two-man effort Saturday, October 26. Looking further at the box score shows the Montreal Canadiens were not just beaten by Logan Couture scoring two more goals than Antti Niemi allowed, but a team effort.
Those stats are very representative of the way the Sharks controlled the game—being at least a little better in every phase of the game.
They won only one more faceoff, but also managed to have more takeaways (4-1) and fewer giveaways (9-12). They made the most of that modest possession edge, getting substantially more shots attempted (70-43) and on goal (37-22). The Canadiens were still out-hit 17-15, and even their blocked shot edge (18-12) actually represented a lower percentage of attempts (.257 vs. .279) and ratio to shots allowed (one per 2.1 vs. 1.8).
Puck possession is the key to San Jose's success, but a lucky bounce got the second goal. Tyler Kennedy advanced the puck to Patrick Marleau, whose dump-in bounced funny off the boards. Montreal's scrambling defenders could not keep Couture from getting possession nor flipping a backhand through them for the insurance goal.
The Sharks worked very hard for other scores but only got one. Several big-time saves by Carey Price kept the Senators in the game.
One reason he faced more rubber was his team struggled a little more with the officials. Taking three more penalties is especially inadvisable against a power play that is still dangerous without Dan Boyle. On the third penalty, Marleau was able get possession of the puck along the boards and find Joe Thornton at the far circle, whose pass to Couture in the slot was an easy redirect past Price.
No matter how many players contributed to San Jose dialing up their record to 9-1-1 so far in the 2013-14 NHL season, there were three players whose performances stuck out Saturday:
- Couture scored both goals in the game on his four shots in seven attempts. He won half his 16 faceoffs in a road game, had two hits and three blocked shots while leading all forwards in minutes (21:18).
- Niemi only faced 22 shots and never more than eight in any period, but he turned them all aside.
- Price almost matched Niemi save-for-save, had almost no chance on the redirect and at worst made a miscalculation in choosing to play the puck on the fluke goal to finish with a .946 save percentage.
The Sharks next travel to play the Ottawa Senators for the second time, earning a 3-2 regulation win in the contest in San Jose. They will be more banged up, using their backup goalie and on short rest with a 2:00 p.m. PDT start, but the unit comparison is available in the preview to that game. Earning even a point against a good team will be tough under the circumstances.