A skeptic could have pointed to the Sharks’ early opponents as the reason for why they’ve been so dominant. Three of their first four foes — the Flames, Oilers and Avalanche — weren’t in the playoffs last season, and the Phoenix Coyotes had their backup goalie in net to face the Sharks. If San Jose was going to run into a spike strip, it would have to come in the form of the Vancouver Canucks, an always-dangerous team most hated in the South Bay for knocking the Sharks out of the Western Conference Finals two years ago.
As it turns out, the Canucks weren’t even a speed bump for the red hot Sharks, who rolled to a 5-0 start on the heels of a 4-1 victory over their Western Canadian rivals.
Ryane Clowe must have had the playoff elimination weighing heavily on his mind when he took the ice for the opening face-off. The puck hadn’t even dropped before he and Alexandre Burrows started jostling after the Canuck went after Logan Couture. Both of them got thrown in the box for two-minute unsportsmanlike minors and the game got underway with some extra skating room.
Joe Thornton was the first to take advantage, gobbling up a rebound in the slot and shelving it for the Sharks’ first goal. Three minutes later, Joe Pavelski netted his first goal of the season after stealing a bad pass in the Canucks’ zone and beating Corey Schneider one-on-one. It was an even-strength goal — a rare event for the Sharks recently — but when the power play is scoring at a 37% clip, it’s really easy to ignore the lack of five-on-five scoring. Pavelski’s second came on an unbelievable one-timer from the high slot, set up Thronton, who has now extended his league-leading point total to 13 (tied with Patrick Marleau).
Really special teams
The Sharks added two more goals on the power play Sunday, but it was San Jose’s other special teams unit doing the shining against Vancouver. The Canucks enjoyed seven power play opportunities and didn’t score on a single one of them. Vancouver came into the game ranked seventh in power play percentage, scoring on six of their 22 opportunities. For the sake of not getting too far ahead of ourselves, it’s worth conceding the Canucks haven’t been completely lights out on the man-advantage this season, but the Sharks pitching an 0-for on the penalty kill (including a four-minute double-minor) was impressive nonetheless.
Rough night, Ryane
Clowe was the man behind that double-minor. He certainly wasn’t in a great mood tonight; the scrappy winger took four penalties in the first 26 minutes of the game before taking a fifth in the second period and losing his cool in the penalty box. Clowe was called for a high-sticking penalty, prompting him to bang the glass of the penalty box door and get slapped with a game misconduct and an ejection. On his way to the dressing room he voiced his displeasure by slamming his stick on the ground. Clowe took 35 penalty minutes in total, the most for a Shark since Jody Shelley still donned Teal.
It’s been a tough start to the season for Clowe, who simply hasn’t looked like himself. He’s a fan favorite and a player many consider to be the heart of this Sharks team, but the feelings in the dressing room regarding Clowe’s haphazard play tonight were mixed.
“Obviously, we’re not happy about the penalties,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “That’s all I’m going to say about it. I owe Ryane Clowe my conversation, I don’t owe any of you guys (media) my conversation.”
Couture wasn’t so hard on his linemate.
“Clowie came in there and scared a couple of their guys away,” he said. “That’s what Clowie does. A lot of those guys talk when Clowie’s not around, and when he comes around, they quiet right up.”
San Jose catches Marleau fever
You know Patrick Marleau is off to a good start when fans are disappointed in a one-goal effort. After opening the first four games of the season scoring two goals a game, Marleau only put one puck in the net on Schneider Sunday night. There wasn’t much to this one — Dan Boyle threw the puck at the goal and it deflected off of Marleau’s leg and past the goaltender’s skate. Following the goal, the HP Pavilion crowd broke out in a “Pat-Trick Mar-Leau!” chant that echoed through the arena.
Don’t mess with Douglas Murray
This was far and above the scrappiest game the Sharks have played this season, with a lot of big hits and fights to go around. The most memorable came in the third period, when Aaron Volpatti threw a hard check in the Sharks zone and Douglas Murray responded on the Canucks’ following drive. Volpatti immediately dropped gloves, but he got more than he wanted from the Sharks’ veteran blueliner. He may be slowing down a bit this season, but no one can deny what a brick wall Murray poses for all who challenge him.