The San Jose Sharks hosted the Calgary Flames as a Pacific Division foe for the first time in over 15 years Saturday, October 19. One look at the penalty minutes in the box score shows this rivalry still runs deep.
The history between these teams in the NHL Western Conference and the Stanley Cup playoffs makes igniting that rivalry easier given the turnover especially on the Flames, whose decline in play had already weakened the importance of this clash and made those postseason battles a thing of the past.
At first, this looked like another San Jose rout. In the first minute, Joe Pavelski stripped a Calgary player of the puck and slid a pass to Brent Burns heading for the crease for the easy one-timer. The toughest goals to stop are the ones this team continues to load up on.
The Flames pushed back in the middle of the period, but then the Sharks took over after the second television timeout. With just over three minutes left before intermission, they got another score when Joe Thornton got the puck from Tomas Hertl and fed Scott Hannan. His shot appeared to be redirected by Burns, but that was not reflected in the official scoring.
The soon-to-be less-shaggy converted defenseman also had a penalty shot turned aside by Karri Ramo, who kept Calgary in the game. A power play goal by rookie Sean Monahan about three minutes into the second turned out to be little more than a blip for San Jose, who kept the pressure on even during a penalty kill to go back up a man.
It took just 27 seconds for Patrick Marleau to keep alive his streak of scoring in every game in the 2013-14 NHL season. After receiving the puck from Matt Irwin, the former captain whipped a shot-pass to Pavelski in front of the crease for the redirect.
The Sharks kept the pressure on, scoring again in the final minutes of the second period. On another power play, Thornton got the puck to Pavelski who gave a cross-ice feed to Marleau for another one-timer with 2:01 left.
However, they did not come out to play in the third period. This is clearly ackowledged by the team in the post-game interviews (coming in the next column) and not something they were happy with.
Mikael Backlund put home a shorthanded goal 93 seconds into the final stanza, and Jiri Hudler kept pace with Marleau for scoring in every game when he netted another goal 2:23 later. The Flames even drew a penalty on Hannan for hooking before the first television timeout.
San Jose's penalty kill responded to douse their comeback and the power play was eventually back on the ice. About 40 seconds later, Jason Demers fed Couture, whose shot was a designed redirection that Pavelski executed to perfection.
Couture also scored into the empty net at the end of the game. As sloppy as the Sharks were, they were the more disciplined than their guests. This is shown not only by three fewer penalties but in their puck possession stats: 40-30 edge in the circle but still 12-5 takeaways and 12-12 giveaways.
They used that extra time with the puck well, with a 36-19 edge in shots on goal and 75-48 edge in attempts. Despite this, the Flames had only two more blocks and four more hits.
It is this thorough play that has the Sharks looking like serious Stanley Cup contenders. So many players have amazing stats, and they are a bit misleading when there is so much scoring that is atypical of Western Conference play.
Former San Jose forward T.J. Galiardi that did not score and was on the ice for all three even-strength goals Calgary gave up was actually important in drawing penalties and giving his team energy. Jason Demers was on the ice for more goals scored than yielded, but his three giveaways were only one byproduct of his sloppy play.
Thus, picking three stars of the game was tough and focused more on what was witnessed...
- On the other hand, Pavelski has to top the stars either way. From the faceoffs of which he won 10 of 16 to the setting his teammates up with two primary assists and knocking two of his own home on nine shot attempts, he was superb. He added two hits and two blocks to go with a giveaway.
- Marleau had a goal and assist with three shots on goal in six attempts. He also won all three of his faceoffs and had one hit.
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic may have only gotten a secondary assist on an empty-net goal, but he blocked seven shots—two more than any player on either team and three more than teammate Justin Braun. His two shots on three attempts with a giveaway do not diminish his defensive contribution.