Given the way the Sharks have been playing recently it’s probably not fair to criticize any game resulting in two points. San Jose needs all the help they can get on the leaderboards — with the win, they now sit fourth in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. They’re seventh in the Western Conference, but that lead is perhaps even more flimsy with four nine-win teams nipping at their heels (including the Red Wings, who come to town on Thursday).
Tuesday night they retook the HP Pavilion ice after 17 days on the road to face the Colorado Avalanche, a team second to last in the conference and probably not making any noise down the stretch. It doesn’t take advanced metrics to figure out who the better team was — just seeing the way the Sharks tossed around the puck and scored it 25 seconds into the game proved their dominance.
Even with the early goal, an unbelievable Logan Couture one-timer set up by Joe Thornton, the Sharks couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. They dominated every offensive category — time of possession, shots on goal and chances — but still surrendered advantage before the first period expired.
The same story unfolded in the final forty minutes. After taking a 2-1 lead in the second on TJ Galiardi’s first goal of the season, San Jose appeared to sit back and try and ride out their one-goal lead. A couple dominant offensive possessions aside, the Sharks didn’t put up much of a fight. It’s a strategy teams employ with a three-goal lead, but the Sharks haven’t enjoyed one of those in weeks and certainly weren’t in the position to do so Tuesday. They were particularly sloppy in their own zone, and it finally came back to collect when an atrocious clearing attempt led to the Colorado equalizer, pushing the game to overtime.
After the five minutes of extra time expired, this post was shaping up to be a pretty ugly one. Luckily, Michal Handzus (who’s becoming quite the leadoff hitter in shootouts) put the Sharks on the board early and after Antti Niemi surrendered a tying goal, Patrick Marleau did the dishes for the win.
— The power play went 0-5 again, and this time it wasn’t even San Jose’s fault. They looked downright dangerous every time they enjoyed a man-advantage, entering the zone, setting up and moving the puck with ease. The biggest reason they didn’t connect was Sergei Varlamov, who absolutely stoned the Sharks at every turn.
— 39 saves for Varlamov. 39. The Avalanche ALWAYS have a goalie who knows how to solve the Sharks.
— As much as I’d like to get excited about the resurgence of the power play, they were doing it against a team with the 25th best penalty kill in the NHL. The fact they didn’t score on any of their opportunities makes it even worse.
— It looks like the Sharks finally found a third line worth sticking with in James Sheppard, TJ Galiardi and Adam Burish. They were probably the best of San Jose’s four lines tonight. Galiardi earned a first star and Sheppard earned a third star for their efforts.
— I couldn’t help but wonder while watching the replays of Couture’s goal why Todd McLellan hasn’t considered moving him up to the top line to play beside Joe Thornton. He always seemed so much more naturally paired with Ryane Clowe, but Clowe may actually be dragging Couture down at this point. I haven’t been a fan of McLellan’s incessant line juggling but it’s a scenario that might help the Sharks generate some more goals, with either Patrick Marleau or Joe Pavelski moving to the second line.
— I bet Jeremy Roenick would love to see McLellan separate Marleau and Thornton, once and for all.
— Brent Burns is turning into the hockey equivalent of Andrew Bogut. He’s back on injured reserve again, meaning the Sharks called up Matt Irwin to bolster the blue line. He didn’t play Tuesday but should see some action soon and will likely be paired up with Dan Boyle, who’s been better with Irwin on the ice.
— Dan Boyle doesn’t need much help being better, though.