The last time the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets met, a horrible goaltender interference call disallowed what would have been a game-winning goal in overtime. Winnipeg took that game 5-4 in a shootout, and for the first 53 minutes of Thursday’s 1-0 Sharks, it seemed as if that might happen again.
This was a defensive masterpiece of sorts, but who am I kidding — you’d have to either be a goaltending enthusiast or a really boring person to enjoy something like that. This game wasn’t even rife with spectacular play in net. The first period featured a couple beauties from Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock, but the second period ground to a near-halt, with each team exchanging zone drives and turnovers.
San Jose finally managed to score, a rebound shot from Joe Pavelski on the power play in the second, but stop me when you’ve heard this before: it was disallowed on a goaltender interference call. Joe Thornton got pushed into Ondrej Pavelec, but without those plays being reviewable, it doesn’t really matter. At this point complaining about officiating in any sport is moot, and this one could have gone either way. Still, the NHL should consider making those plays reviewable next season.
Besides, that set up Pavelski to stay hot and provide the SAP Center with the game’s only real goal in the third period; an even prettier goal than the first one:
The goal (Pavelski’s 7th goal in the last four games and 19th over the last 22) came on the heels of one of the worst power plays of the season for the Sharks, which is saying a lot because they had two other contenders over the course of Thursday’s game. Once Winnipeg got back to even strength, the Sharks’ found a flurry of chances, including Justin Braun’s backhand shot that deflected off of Pavelec’s blocker. Pavelski was there to backhand-bunt it into the net.
Get excited, America, because Pavelski looks ready to put Team USA on his back in Sochi.
Enough about the offense, and honestly, let’s not talk about defense much either. The Sharks weren’t impressive at the blue line, and that’s being generous. Dan Boyle and Matt Irwin had their worst game of the year by far, and I’m beginning to wonder if Boyle is going to be the odd man out when his contract is up along with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau this coming offseason. The Sharks kept Winnipeg off of the scoreboard with three solid penalty kills and a great game from Stalock. It was the second-straight shutout for the young goaltender with an incredible comeback story, highlighted by this unbelievable save in the first period:
This 20-save performance is going to have a lot of Sharks fans clamoring for Antti Niemi to take a backseat. I’m not going to say I disagree, because mostly I don’t. Stalock has been extremely impressive and he looks supremely confident when you put his recent starts side-by-side with Niemi’s. I’m instead going to say that, save for a collapse of monstrous proportions, Todd McLellan isn’t going to unseat Niemi. He will be the primary netminder until the situation warrants it.