The Sharks returned home to battle the league’s second-best 5-on-5 team, but it was a 3-2 shootout finale that decided a back-and-forth battle with the Phoenix Coyotes. San Jose absolutely assaulted goalie Mike Smith with shots: 50 on goal — 21 of them coming on the power play and 26 more that got blocked before they made it to the net — and still only reached the shootout with two goals.
It’s not a surprising revelation. The Sharks are a team that frequently out-shoots their opponents at an absurd rate, and Smith is one of the goaltenders San Jose can never seem to crack. You can point to their inability to finish or their 1-0f-6 power play line, but the decision I’m wondering about came in the shootout line up card.
San Jose has a ton of scoring depth, and starting with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski was a no-brainer. Couture got off on the right foot, scoring on a wicked wristshot that displayed his ridiculous release. Pavelski hit the post on a shot that deflected off of Smith’s back and almost made it into the net. What baffled me was Todd McLellan’s decision to put Jason Demers in the cleanup spot with a chance to win the game.
It was Demers’s first shootout attempt and it fell flatter than a blown tire. I’ve tried to wrap my head around the decision-making that goes into McLellan’s lineups, and I’m sure there was some logic in going with Demers there. There’s no scouting report on a guy who has never attempted a shot and maybe he’s looked good during shootout drills in practice. But he isn’t even the third best offensive defender on the Sharks right now, and employing Demers in that situation had a hand in losing the game.
Radim Vrbata kept the Desert Dogs (/drink) alive, and to be fair, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau failed to score before Antoine Vermette finished it. But Dan Boyle is perhaps the best 1-on-0 scorers on the team, and to go five shooters deep without using him is worth questioning.
Off the Post
– Boyle made his return to the Sharks tonight and, although he was a little shaky defensively in the first, he came around and played a hell of a game. His goal in the second was a welcomed sight, bringing life to a power play that’s truly been missing him. He’s a threat to score from the point, something defenses haven’t respected lately.
– The Sharks are coming down to earth a little bit lately, and my biggest concern is their inability to win a close game late. Shootouts are essentially a coin flip, but their loss to the Bruins with 0.8 seconds left is beginning to look more like a trend than a freak accident. They couldn’t get it together during their overtime period with the Kings, and they had a flurry of chances at the end of the third and looked completely disorganized in overtime tonight. They’re lucky they made it to a shootout.
– They earned a point, but they also gave their Pacific Division foes two points as well. That’s the second time in two games they’ve done that. San Jose can’t afford to do that down the stretch, and especially when they run into the Ducks at the end of November.