One week really can make a difference.
In three games over the last week, the San Jose Sharks went from the pits of a six-game losing streak to the high of a three-game winning streak.
Three games is modest to be sure, but all three teams were ahead of the Sharks in the standings. Two of the games were on the road. They scored 10 goals in the three games against good goaltenders and doubled-up their opponents all three times.
By contrast, in the six losses, the Sharks scored just eight goals (they had only nine in the seven games of 2011) and gave up 19. They faced four teams who were behind them in the league standings at that point. Five of the games were at home.
Thursday, they beat the best team in the league in Vancouver.
The first period went about as expected. The mega-talented Canucks controlled play, drawing two minor penalties and getting off 17 shots en route to a 1-0 lead.
But the second period saw the Sharks battle their way back into it. The Sharks got off a franchise road-record 25 shots in the period, including the one goal: Logan Couture stole the puck from Christian Ehrhoff in the slot, go off a quick shot and put home a backhanded rebound.
Both goalies battled the rest of the way to keep the puck out of the net in a game with a frenetic pace. The Sharks attempted 76 shots, getting 46 on net; Vancouver attempted 54 with 37 on net. It took a shootout to determine a winner and Joe Pavelski was the only shooter to score.
How will the Sharks finish this season?
Roberto Luongo made saves by swallowing up the puck and allowing few rebounds. Annti Niemi made more acrobatic saves, directing rebounds where he wanted them to a defence that was quick to pounce on them.
Despite putting more pucks toward the net, the Sharks hustle showed in getting two more blocked shots (19-17). They played harder, getting those shots despite losing seven more faceoffs (30-37) than Vancouver and registering five more hits (24-19). They played smarter, having just three giveaways to the host's eight.
The Sharks had to kill five penalties, including an overtime four-on-three, but got only two power plays of their own.
In other team notes, former Canuck Kyle Wellwood played 11:18 and registered a shot in four attempts as well as a hit while winning eight of 15 faceoffs. Fellow newcomer Ben Eager played 7:09 and had two hits and a blocked shot.
The team has also settled on a goalie for the foreseeable future now that Anterro Niittymaki is injured. There is no news as to the seriousness or nature of the injury—one contention I heard was that is was a back injury, but that seems to be disputed with the news that it is lower-body—but one can be sure he misses two or more weeks if he is on injured reserve.
Because it happened in the morning skate and the Worcester Sharks were too far away to get a player in a call-up, Jordan White of the University of British Columbia was signed to a one-day Amateur contract to back up Nemo.
In all likelihood, Alex Stalock, Tyson Sexsmith, or even Harri Sateri will be called-up to back-up Niemi into next month. There are only two games left before the All Star break, but without a backup they can trust in net, Nemo would be in net for 10 games in the first 19 days of February.