NHL

Sharks beat Canucks, find old habits are hard to break

Tuesday’s tilt against the visiting Vancouver Canucks was the first glimpse at what the Sharks’ regular season roster might look like — and how they stack up with the competition.

I told a colleague before the game that it would be the first time we’d see if San Jose would fall back into their old habits. That old adage of starting off strong, then letting up and allowing the other team to “hang around,” as DeBoer said last week about playing the Anaheim Ducks.

The Sharks did in fact get off to an aggressive start. Then began to get too loose. But thanks to another stellar performance from Martin Jones and a penalty kill that keeps on rolling, San Jose was able to pull out the 2-1 win.

“It’s a good thing that it happened now in the preseason,” Tommy Wingels said after rattling off the list of things that weren’t right with the Sharks’ play — how that competitive start dissolved into issues with turnovers. “It’s good that we grinded it out and found a way to still win the game.”

“Obviously not the kind of game I would have liked to have seen,” DeBoer admitted about seeing the team at its most regular season-esque for the first time. “We found a way to win. A little sloppy with our puck management … A lot of things to work on.”

The Positives

Continuing to be dominant on the kill was a huge key to the Sharks pulling out the win. They kept the Canucks from converting on four power play attempts, and have killed off 20-of-22 penalties during preseason play. The other big key was Jones and his 29 saves, which weren’t coming easy toward during the third frame when San Jose’s penalties started to add up. But Jones maintained his cool — frankly, he doesn’t look like he breaks a sweat during a game — and kept Vancouver from climbing up the board.

The coach pointed out those two positive elements. “The good news is, I thought our goaltending was excellent. Our penalty kill was excellent. There were some good things out there.”

Another positive was that the Paul Martin-Brent Burns pairing is already having a positive impact, even though the duo is still getting comfortable playing together.

“Coach has been great keeping us together, letting us develop chemistry,” said Burns, who explained what goes into creating the finesse it takes to have a successful pair. “Last season, going back to (defense) was hard, and then I didn’t really have a steady partner for a lot of time. It takes time to develop (chemistry) with every single guy, and it’s been good. I think it’s only going to get better.”

The Game Breakdown

The Sharks as a whole looked good and dangerous during the first frame. Wingels opened up the scoring when he deflected a shot by Paul Martin from the point to put Team Teal on the board 1-0. But Vancouver retaliated before the first 20 minutes expired to tie the game up 1-1. San Jose regained the lead in the second stanza 2-1 thanks to a Burns wrist shot, then relied heavily on goaltending and special teams to keep the game from getting away from them.

While not totally satisfied with the whole game, DeBoer acknowledged the benefit of picking out these problems now, with a week left until the season opener down in L.A. “You’re better having that now then next week. I think we will know what we have to do better in order to have success on a consistent basis.”

Which goes back to my earlier point…

The Sharks have pinpointed what they need to improve on. Will we see their game get better, or are they destined to fall back on their old habits?

“It’s early, “Burns said with a shrug. “You can always get better.”

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