The 2011-12 San Jose Sharks are just finding a way to get it done.
They out-blocked and out-shot (a rare combination) their first three opponents on the road trip out east. But the Sharks had new challenges in the second half of the trip.
Back-to-back games were against a championship-calibre team looking to rebound in one historic building and a developing team playing well at home in another. Making that task more difficult is its timing, more than a week into a road trip three times zones away from home.
Their fifth road win in a row ties a franchise record, and no Sharks team has never had a perfect record on a trip this long. The Sharks did what they have done over the entire trip and found different ways to get the same results—a win.
For example, this was the first of three back-to-backs this season to feature different goalies. Both Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss played well, turning away at least 30 shots while giving up just two goals each (.942 combined save percentage).
Having now lost the faceoff battle in four of the five games, the Sharks had nine fewer possessions through the two nights. But they partially made up for it by being better when they had the puck.
Given their negative possession differential, the Sharks would generally have more takeaways and fewer giveaways. While having fewer takeaways in both games doubled this possession differential, the Sharks were lower in turnovers for both games.
This diminished the possession differential by a third, Moreover, while San Jose attempted 18 fewer shots and got nine fewer on net, they blocked more in both games and 10 more between them.
How much stock should fans put into the success of the Sharks roadt trip thus far?
One thing that was consistent was controversial officiating.
Against Detroit, Tomas Holmstrom was called for incidental goalie interference to nullify one goal, but Detroit's Jonathan Eriksson got away with two penalties in two seconds later in the game. There was more than one other questionable call per team afterward.
Effort was apparent by the visitors. After taking an early deficit, the Sharks bounced back with a power play goal 132 seconds into the second with a play emblematic of the game for his team.
Douglas Murray came up with the puck in his own end and skated it toward the boards to clear the zone. With Patrick Marleau on the ice, he made the smart play to bank the puck off the glass and up to centre ice.
What Patty did next was missed by both announcers and the NHL on the Fly hosts.
Using his speed to get to it before former teammate Ian White, he poked the puck with his stick in just his right hand and got to it on the other side of the defenceman. With it spinning on edge, he slapped it over Jimmy Howard's save attempt to give the Sharks the lead.
One smart, basic play by one of the team's best grinders and a great individual effort and display by one of the team's best skilled players. That formula will win a lot of hockey games.
Detroit tied the game up less than seven minutes later, but it took the Sharks half as long for Joe Pavelski's headman pass to Joe Thornton to badly beat White, obviously over-anxious to make a statement to his former employer. The Sharks captain took his time before burying the breakaway, then added an empty netter in the final 35 seconds.
How many points will San Jose get in New York Monday?
The Sharks came out fast the next night in New York. A bad cross-check by Steve Staois led to a Pavelski goal just 17 seconds into the game.
But the Sharks penalty kill continues to be an area of concern, as four straight penalties led to power play goals by John Tavares and Michael Grabner. San Jose's kill is just 76 percent for the season and has given up a goal in six of their nine games.
With the Sharks having given up more special teams goals than they have scored and the Isles the worst even-strength team in the league, it was imperative that the Sharks stayed out of the box for the rest of the night. They did, and Logan Couture got the game back to a tie fewer than two minutes later.
After failing on one strong and one pathetic power play in the third period, San Jose caught another officiating break in overtime. A pass that deflected off the glass and out of play was called for delay, and Brent Burns buried the only shot taken during the four-on-three.
Right now, San Jose has only the fifth-best record in the Western Conference. However, a win in the road finale could give it the best point percentage in the conference if Chicago loses to Nashville.