A lot has happened since the last time the San Jose Sharks played a game that counted. And a lot of speculation has centered on how this season would go. But all those off-season roster moves and talks of fresh starts didn’t change the fact that the Sharks and the LA Kings still really don’t like each other.
After Team Teal laid the 5-1 smack-down on their Southern California rivals in Wednesday’s season opener, I couldn’t help but go back and take a peak at last year’s opener in which they beat the Kings 4-0. This year’s edition was arguably more of a rough-and-tumble tilt that began violently — early fisticuffs between Mike Brown and Kyle Clifford — and contained more questionable hits — like Dustin Brown head-butting Logan Couture in the face.
Brown hit on Couture pic.twitter.com/AcTP4oTP0D
— steph (@myregularface) October 8, 2015
But this battle still ended much how these two teams started last season, with the Sharks raining on the Kings’ homecoming.
It’s just one game. It doesn’t determine either team’s path for the next 81 games. But heck, at least we learned a couple things about what this new era Sharks team is bringing to the table.
Things We Learned
Martin Jones is no joke. After letting the Kings’ first shot of the game float past him, which put San Jose in an early 1-0 hole, the new starter dialed in and prevented the next 19 shots from getting past him. Last season’s opener featured a performance from Antti Niemi in one of the few times he looked as though he could pitch a shutout every night. But the former starter arguably wouldn’t have recovered from getting into the early 1-0 hole like Jones did on Wednesday. Sharks’ goaltending is shaping up to be the newest force to be reckoned with.
But it wasn’t like Jones didn’t have help in front of him. We also saw that San Jose’s special teams success in the preseason might not have been a fluke. San Jose killed off all six of LA’s attempts on the man advantage and scored twice on the power play.
While we’re talking about the power play goals …
Things We Re-Learned
How ridiculously clutch Joe Pavelski is. The newly-minted captain picked up right where he left off last season, dominating the scoreboard with a redirected power play goal in the first frame and two assists on the rest of the evening.
He wasn’t the only Joe to thunder into the new season. Thornton’s first period goal on the 3-on-1 was a thing of beauty. He already proved last season that he could contribute despite the off-ice kerfuffle. Just imagine what the new alternate captain can do with a fresh new season ahead of him.
Things We Still Don’t Know
Judging from just one regular season game, this San Jose team is more physical. Even without moving too many pieces from last year’s roster, the Peter DeBoer-era Sharks appear to pack a little more punch. They can also take a lot of hits, as was apparent from the watching Couture and Barclay Goodrow get pummeled in Wednesday’s game.
Can they can keep that level of physicality up night after night?
Maybe we’ll get a better idea on Saturday, when the Sharks have their home opener against the Anaheim Ducks … another team they don’t particularly like.
Extra Shark Bites
— Joe Thornton’s goal in the first period marks his fifth career goal in a season opener. He now has 14 points in season openers.
— Joonas Donksoi was credited with his first NHL goal in the third period of Wednesday night’s game.
— The Sharks now have the longest active winning streak for season openers with six victories.