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Sharks Continue Atop The Pacific
By Victor Cabrera
The San Jose Sharks have been on top of the Pacific Division and the month of February was an example of why they may be this year'[s divisional champion. This month the Sharks played 11 games marking a 5-1-5 record for a total of 16 points. While that may not look impressive they managed to get at least one point in all games this past month except for one. One regulation loss in 11 games is not an easy thing to do and points are tough to get in this league. It’s starting to look like another Stanley Cup run team but, first to analyze the Sharks’ February performance.
The first game of the month was a road game in Vancouver against the Canucks. A slow start to the game and then the game’s first goal, while on the power play, a historic moment for Patrick Marleau as he scored his 500th NHL career goal with the Sharks for a 1-0 lead. The excitement did not end as Chris Tierney scored to increase the visitors lead. A 2-0 lead after the opening period and the goal scoring did not appear for either team in the second period. The scoring returned quickly in the third as Brent Burns scored for the Sharks in the first minute of the final period. Vancouver clawed back scoring a goal of their own in the third. Chris Tierney scored on the power play for his second goal of the night, late in the third sealing a 4-1 road win for San Jose. The Sharks returned home for a game against the Arizona Coyotes. Neither team was able to score in the opening period. The visiting Coyotes scored the game’s first goal while on the power play. Brenden Dillon found the back of the net late in the period tying the game, the score held up into the third period. Logan Couture gave the Sharks the lead early in the third but the Coyotes tied it up less than 30 seconds with a goal of their own. The tie couldn’t be broken and the extra session was required but, even then neither team scored so a shoot out was required. Patrick Marleau attemped the shot in the first round but was denied by Mike Smith. Arizona’s first shooter scored giving them the lead.Logan Couture scored in the second round tying the score momentarily. The second Arizona shooter scored making it a must score round three for San Jose. Captain Joe Pavelski with the game on his stick was denied and the Sharks fell to the Coyotes 3-2 in the shoot out. A tough home game loss as the Sharks never really had the lead.
San Jose had a four-game Eastern Conference road trip next on their schedule. The Sabers were the first stop on the road trip. The home side took advantage of a power play and scored the game’s opening goal. Joel Ward tied the game with a goal of how own but the Sharks scored another quick goal courtesy of Logan Couture giving them a 2-1 lead after the first period of play. Melker Karlsson helped build the team’s lead scoring the only goal in the second period. In the third Joe Pavelski scored a power play goal practically giving them the win but, the tides turned for San Jose. The Sabers scored a power play goal closing in on the Sharks’ lead but it didn’t stop there. Buffalo scored two more goals less than a minute apart tying the game at four a piece and forcing overtime. The next goal decided the winner and the Sabers could not be stopped scoring the game winner in over time for a San Jose 5-4 loss in overtime. Next on the road trip were the Boston Bruins with their new head coach debuting, Bruce Cassidy. Less than a minute into the game the Sharks were already behind with a goal from the Bruins. Joe Thornton the former Bruin made his presence felt tying the game with his goal for the Sharks. Boston reclaimed their lead a few minutes in the period and scored a power play goal to make their lead 3-1. With a two goal deficit in the second the Sharks wasted little time chipping at the lead with a goal from Justin Braun. The Bruins would recover their two goal lead and made it grow with another late period power play goal for a 5-2 lead. The Sharks struggled to mount a comeback in the third but, Timo Meier gave them hope with a late period goal, down by two the Sharks pulled the goalie and the Bruins would seal their win scoring an empty goal for a 6-3 Sharks loss.
The Flyers were the next team the Sharks would visit on their road trip. A slow defensive game as neither team managed to score in neither the first or second period. Philadelphia struck first but, San Jose answered quickly with a power play goal from Patrick Marleau. But there was no more scoring a 1-1 regulation score required overtime. The extra session didn’t last as a turnover lead to the game winning breakaway for the Flyers. The loss wasn’t one the team could lament on as the next day the Sharks had to visit the New Jersey to close out the four-game road trip. Another shaky start for the Sharks as the Devils scored the only goal of the opening period. In the second period the Sharks’ “Beards” took over, with Brent Burns scoring two in a row followed by a Joe Thornton goal for a 3-1 lead. With a two goal lead and only twenty minutes to play the Sharks were close to their first win the road trip. The Devils couldn’t formulate a comeback and with the goalie pulled Tomas Hertl put the game away scoring on the empty net. A 4-1 comeback win for San Jose who were now on their way back West.
The Florida Panthers were next on the schedule at the SAP Center. The Panthers took an early lead which is short-lived when Brent Burns tied the game back up 31 seconds later. The tie was also short as the Panthers took back their lead just 44 seconds later. Then the Panthers added another goal for a two goal lead. Joel Ward scored late in first for the sharks making it a 3-2 Panthers’ lead after the opening period. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic scored the solo goal in the middle frame making it a 3-3 game with the final period to play. The Panthers recaptured their lead early in the final frame. Florida then scored another goal, with a historic point for Jaromir Jagr who recorded his 1900th NHL Career point. The captain took matters into his own hands scoring off a lucky deflection and then tying the game in the final minute with the Sharks having the goalie pulled. Roberto Luongo suffered an injury during the game-tying goal and was removed from the game forcing backup James Reimer to take over. The Captain’s pair of goals forced overtime after a 5-5 regulation. The switch of goalies did not affect Florida as they quickly scored in overtime taking the second point and preventing the Sharks from a cardiac comeback win with a 6-5 final score in favor of the visiting team. The Sharks visited the Arizona Coyotes for their last regular season meeting. Brent Burns got the goal scoring started in the first period. Melker Karlsson increased their lead to 2-0 which was taken into the intermission. Michael Haley then scored his first goal of the season and the only goal of the second period for a 3-0 Sharks’ lead. The Coyotes struck with their first goal, in the opening minute of the final period. Brent Burns found his second goal late in the third on the power-play for a 4-1 road win.
The Sharks had to get back home to the SAP Center for the next night’s game against the Bruins for their second and last meeting of the season. Boston was hot on a three-game win streak since Bruce Cassidy took charge behind the bench. The Bruins took the lead by scoring the opening period’s only goal. The Sharks struggled but Patrick Marleau scored late in the second tying the game at one a piece. In the third period neither team managed to score and overtime was required. Midway into overtime the Bruins scored a breakaway goal for a 2-1 Sharks’ loss. The upside was the bye week gave the Sharks six days off till their next game. At the conclusion of the rested days the Sharks’ first game was a road game versus the Canucks. A scoreless first period between the two teams. The first goal was scored early in the second by Tomas Hertl. The Canucks tied the game later in the period with some magic from the Sedin twins. In the final minute of the middle period Patrick Marleau recovered the lead for the Sharks. A 2-1 lead with just one period left to play a tough game to play. Mikkel Boedker gave the Sharks a cushion as he capitalized on a turnover making the score 3-1. A few minutes Logan Couture secured the win scoring on the power-play for a 4-1 win. The final game of the month was a home game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams couldn’t get the puck in the net for a scoreless opening period. The Maple Leafs got on the board first scoring on the power play. Brenden Dillon later knotted up the score with his second of the season. The 1-1 tie was to be dealt with in the third but neither team was able to get the go-ahead goal till near the end. Patrick Marleau controlled the puck with three Leafs’ players around him feed the puck to Tomas Hertl, controlled the puck and slide a sniper through Frederik Andersen’s arm for the go-ahead goal with a little over a minute to go. Toronto had no choice and pulled the goalie which gave Joe Pavelski the superb chance to seal the game scoring on the empty net with a pass from Joe Thornton who has 999 career assists now. A big 3-1 win to close out the month of February.
Team Leaders after this month are as follows: Goal, Assist, and Point Leader Brent Burns, 27 goals 39 assists for 66 points. Leader in wins Martin Jones 30 wins (2 Shutouts) and Aaron Dell 7 wins (1 Shutout).
The Sharks did good in getting points in almost every game a key part to winning the division and cementing a playoff spot. Their problem has been the penalty kill and blowing some leads. They have the goal scoring ability and should keep their foot on the gas as sometimes the big leads slip through as seen versus Buffalo. A good sign was two wins right after the bye week there was no rust which is a factor in the playoffs in between series. The two possibilities for personal achievements is Thornton reaching 1000 assists which is going to happen, and Burns winning the Norris or Hart Memorial Trophy maybe even both as he has franchise league, and NHL: historical records. The biggest accomplishment is reaching another Stanley Cup Final but, winning Lord Stanley this season. This team is a heavy candidate in the cup talks and time will tell how far their journey goes.
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March 18th, 2017