Playing their biggest game so far this year, the San Jose Sharks outshot the Anaheim Ducks 43-13, setting a franchise in shot differential with 30 and won 2-1 Friday night at home.
This win put the Sharks seven points ahead of the second place Anaheim and 10 points in front of the Dallas Stars in the ultra competitive Pacific Division.
San Jose scored just 40 seconds into the game on a nifty backhand shot by Jumbo Joe Thornton.
The goal was Thornton's 21st of the year and was the 51th time the Sharks have drawn first blood this year.
The goal was made possible by the hustle of Jonathon Cheechoo, who first got the puck into the Ducks’ zone and then created room for linemate Milan Michalek to pass to Thornton.
Jonas Hiller started in goal for Anaheim although Jean-Sebastian Giguere was the scheduled starter. No reason for the switch was given at game time.
Hiller played well allowing only two goals on 43 shots. He even took a hard Cheechoo slapper right off his coconut in the third period. The shot shook the goalie up and opened a small cut on his forehead; Hiller got looked at by trainers on the bench and immediately returned to the net.
The first period was action-packed with the Ducks displaying solid checking in all zones. The Sharks showed some grit as they were liberal with the body checks early on. Sharks’ Jody Shelley put hard checks on George Parros, Sean O'Donnell and Marc-Andre Bergeron. This would eventually result in a scrap with Parros, with a close decision going to Shelley. As Parros headed to the sin bin blood was dripping from the bridge of his nose.
Like his play this entire season, Evgeni Nabokov looked good in goal for the Sharks. Nabby made key saves while shorthanded and appeared composed throughout the game, which can be difficult when you do not face many shots—all five of Anaheim’s shots in the first period came on the powerplay.
In the second period the Ducks showed some of the reasons why they are defending champions, efficiently killed off a full two-minute five-on-three powerplay and scored an even strength goal on a three-on-three rush.
The period would end with the score knotted at one apiece.
While shorthanded in the third period, the Ducks’ Travis Moen was called for delay of game (can we get rid of this rule please) when an attempted clearing pass went over the glass. During the resulting five-on-three power play Jeremy Roenick made the Ducks pay.
Standing at the side of the net he faked a shot and appeared to be making a pass when he fired on Hiller who could not stop the puck. The goal padded Roenick's league-leading 12th game "deciding" goal of the season. Oh how brilliant Doug Wilson looks now in coaxing Roenick out of retirement. Take those game-deciders away and where would the Sharks be?
The Sharks have a lot of things to be proud about this win. They played as a team, stayed focused and limited their defensive breakdowns.
Although they did not score goals, both Patrick Marleau and Cheechoo had excellent games—Cheechoo alone registered seven shots on net.
Other players doing the small things well included Shelly who kept the league’s most penalized team (for the second straight year) in check physically. Best of all the Sharks did not allow the Ducks a shot on net for the entire third period.
However the Sharks need to keep some things in mind: Anaheim played without three of their best players: Chris Pronger, Giguere and Corey Perry. San Jose also knows that they will be meeting these same Ducks next Friday night in Anaheim. The Sharks also need to recognize that the there is no quit in the Ducks. If the Sharks want to win next Friday they need to play even harder than they did at home tonight.
Another area that needs to be addressed is how someone can place a wicked, intentional, blind-sided elbow to head of Cheechoo from Chris Kunitz without any retaliation? I realize that they did not need to be shorthanded at the end of a close game but gimme a break you have to protect your teammates!
The Sharks need to keep their collective foot on the gas pedal down the stretch and play next Friday like it is a game seven.
Trivia: Now that Alexander Ovechkin has hit the 60-goal plateau, does anyone remember who the last man was to score 70 goals? Hint: he is still playing and did it in his rookie year.