The Sharks were averaging just about a goal per period before leaving for their late-October road trip. Scoring has gotten scarce lately, and a lot of it has to do with the absence of Dan Boyle. He was in the building for the Sharks’ 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens tonight — he was even present for some of the broadcast — but Boyle wasn’t quite ready to suit up and help the Sharks score just yet.
Brent Burns wasn’t back yet either. He didn’t remain with the team when they left for Montreal — instead he’s back in San Jose while dealing with a facial injury — and the absence of the two has been evident during their three game road stretch starting on Monday. A 1-0 win in Detroit, a 2-1 loss in Boston and now a 2-0 win tonight isn’t what we’re used to seeing from a team that lit up the Rangers 9-2 just a few weeks ago.
Nevertheless, San Jose persevered and they did it on the strength of yet another shutout for Antti Niemi and two goals from Logan Couture. With 22 saves against the Canadiens, the Sharks’ goaltender has allowed only three goals since leaving San Jose on Sunday. Meanwhile, Couture continues to love playing outside of HP Pavilion (and especially in Canada), with 10 of his 14 career two-goal games coming on the road. He notched a power play goal at 13:40 in the second (Marleau and Thornton on the assists), and added an insurance goal in the final frame after a funky bounce off of the glass caught Carey Price off guard and landed right on Couture’s backhand with an empty net.
The exclamation point on a solid effort came within the last three minutes of the third period, when the Sharks held the puck within the Canadiens’ half of the ice and never allowed Price to leave the net. Boos rained down on a Montreal squad that waited a little too long to pull their own goalie and then couldn’t effectively clear a puck so they could add an extra skater. It was a high pressure moment avoided, which will be important come tomorrow afternoon when the Sharks’ quick turnaround finds them facing off with the Ottawa Senators.
Off the post
– Word on the street is Boyle will be back tomorrow. Randy Hahn tested out the question with the defensemen, who vaguely said he’d be back after a few more good skates. There won’t be more than a brief practice tomorrow morning, so if he is going to play, that comment should be smoke and mirrors.
– San Jose’s power play has been … okay, which is really too bad because of how many opportunities they’re getting. The Sharks have enjoyed 48 man-advantage chances — the most in the league ahead of Carolina. You can attribute the stat to speed, which is exactly what Todd McLellan wanted.
– They’re scoring on the power play at a 22.9% clip, which puts them at 8th in the league. They only had one chance against Boston, but enjoyed four tonight, scoring on one of them. Not exactly what McLellan wanted, but it was good enough to get a win.
– This was Matt Nieto’s best game as Shark, and he’s looked even more impressive than Tomas Hertl since the latter cooled down. It’s not a knock on either: Hertl is on the top line without the benefit of Burns on his wing and he’s facing off with the opponent’s best defensemen game in and game out. Nieto is making the most of his opportunities though, and he’s flashing incredible speed and great shot when he gets in open space.
– Another two-point night for Patrick Marleau, helping out with both of Couture’s goals. He’s now 6th in the league with 14 points. No big deal.