2011-12 San Jose Sharks Season Opens with 6-3 Victory over Phoenix Coyotes

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIOctober 10, 2011

Thomas Greiss has handled the workload in the preseason and for Saturday's opening night
Thomas Greiss has handled the workload in the preseason and for Saturday's opening nightThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

New year, same results.

The San Jose Sharks ended the 2010-11 regular season with a victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. They began the 2011-12 season the same way and the similarities do not end there.

The Sharks led the league in shots on goal with 34.5 last season, while only two teams gave up more than the Coyotes' 32.6. Phoenix was 17th in shots on goal with 30.3 and the Sharks gave up the eighth-fewest at 28.9. In this contest San Jose dominated, shooting the puck 52 times to Phoenix's 29, including a 19-4 edge that staked them to a 2-0 lead in the first period.

San Jose also had the best power play in the league at home and the second best overall. They cashed in on three of six chances in just 9:57 in power play time because all goals were within the first 1:08 of the man-advantage and one power play came with just 35 seconds left in the game. They also got a goal just 13 seconds after a power play ended.

On the other hand, the Sharks were 24th in the league on the penalty kill, which also continued. The Sharks were shorthanded seven times and gave up three goals.

As tends to be the case when you control the puck, the Sharks continued last season's trend of being outhit (33-15), out-blocked (just 20-19, however) and being minus-nine in the giveaway-takeaway differential as compared to their opponents. They were also uncharacteristically beaten in the faceoff circle, 36-35.

The Sharks showed characteristic forward depth they had supposedly lost this offseason, as all four lines scored. Joe Pavelski, a seventh-round pick on the first line, scored both on the power play and Andrew Desjardins, an undrafted free agent on the fourth line, also scored twice.

The remaining goals were scored by Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe. The Sharks spread around the assists, with no one going to a goal-scorer and only Patrick Marleau getting more than one assist, including a beautiful feed to Paveslki between Derek Morris' legs. Six players did not score at all: Joe Thornton, Jamie McGinn, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Colin White and Douglas and Andrew Murray.

Thomas Greiss continued his solid play despite long stretches where many young goalies would go cold for lack of activity. Still, his three goals yielded on 29 shots are not going to make any sensible fan hope Antti Niemi's return is stayed.

Ultimately, the Coyotes will be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference this season. They are relying on a great backup goalie to be their starter and have only two skaters who would find themselves in the top half of the depth chart for their positions in San Jose. This was a game the Sharks had to win at home, even with their third goalie in net.

Nevertheless, Phoenix is a well-coached team that knows the division and plays hard. For San Jose to dominate them the way they did in this game through two periods before obviously playing their bench and playing it safe in the third, is encouraging.