There is more to the Sharks’ back-to-back wins — on back-to-back nights, no less — besides the obvious “wow” factor in the late goals that decided both victories. Or the fact that Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored both game-winning goals in epic fashion. (Even though one media outlet tried to give the credit for Tuesday’s OT win to the Minnesota Wild, but they appear to have fixed that error.)
Team Teal’s week on the road has come after their most atrocious home loss of the season, a game in which nobody on the ice was able to step up and get the rest of the team in the game.
Just before the road trip started, following the 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, members of the media asked the team if the absence of Joe Thornton played a factor in the devastating defeat. It was, not surprisingly, an unpopular question.
“This is a team, we’ve got a really good group in here,” Joe Pavelski said. “Obviously he’s a great piece of this team, so there’s a little absence. But it doesn’t change anything we do as a group, as a system … It’s solely on the guys in here.”
But if the absence of No. 19 over the past three games — the two road wins in particular — has shown us anything, it’s that now more than ever is a good time for other players to fill the void.
We’ve seen players outside of the usual goal-scorers put points on the board. In addition to Vlasic putting two deciding goals on the board in two nights, rookie Melker Karlsson has continued his successful tenure up from the AHL Sharks, extending his current goal streak to three games. Brent Burns — I know, he still has his moments where he looks absolutely dreadful — has been popping up on the stats sheet in a positive way as well, with a four-game points streak (one goal, four assists) that includes two assists during Tuesday’s game.
A couple Sharks have even started breaking out of slumps. Patrick Marleau tallied the primary assist on Burns’ power play goal on Monday in Winnipeg, his first point in 10 games. Tommy Wingels’ go-ahead goal in the third frame of the game ended his own 14-game scoring drought.
It isn’t just goal-scoring that has propelled the Sharks to victory, as they’ve also improved on the blue line. The new combo of Matt Irwin and Matt Tennyson has been strong over the past two games; Tennyson has been at his best in this recent call up from AHL Worcester, and has brought out some of the best in Irwin. Together they’ve been as sharp a pair as any in front of netminders Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock, respectively.
San Jose’s next test: maintaining a consistent team product on the ice in their rematch with the Blues. The Sharks make their only visit to Scottrade Center for the season on Thursday, and will not just be looking for a win, but a chance at redemption after the Blues embarrassed them at home last weekend. But a win will depend on the Sharks not collectively flailing like they did last Saturday, but rather more players stepping up and contributing.