If a stranger had walked up to you during the LA Kings extra long banner raising ceremony and had whispered in your ear, “The Sharks are going to shut the Kings out 4-0 tonight,” you would have assumed that person was on crack.
Granted, it’s not as if the Sharks have never defeated the Kings before. But pretty much all pregame indicators pointed to San Jose fighting an uphill battle just to put a point on the board.
So how is it exactly that San Jose, with all of their drama and seeming lack of direction, stumped the defending Stanley Cup champions in such a fashion?
First of all, let’s not get too carried away. This was a single game, and we have a whole lot more games to watch and dissect. But for the sake of geeking out over one single game, let us take a gander at what we can learn — and what we have yet to learn — in the Team Teal season debut.
We learned that Tommy Wingels might be the angriest player on this roster. Like, wide-eyed angry, like I-haven’t-blinked-all-game-I’m-so-agitated type of angry. Right out the gate in training camp, when other players were trying to keep more tight-lipped about being hurt over how the their previous season ended, Wingels had no problem admitting that he and his team had chips on their shoulders.
He then took that aggression to the ice at Staples Center, notching two very physical goals; the first a short-handed wrister that he nabbed on a pass from new guy Tye McGinn, and the second a backhanded shot that LA goaltender Jonathan Quick missed completely. If anyone was fueled by having to face the Kings for the first game of the season, it was Number 57.
We also learned that the Sharks definitely made the right choice in what rookies to keep in the mix for the regular season. Both forward Chris Tierney and defenseman Mirco Mueller had ample playing time against the Kings, and each drew a penalty. Not too bad for their first day on the job.
Things We Re-Learned
We were reminded of what Antti Niemi looks like when he has a solid showing between the pipes. After looking lackluster in preseason play, the vet notched a 34-save shutout. Was he in fight-or-flight mode because he knew if he played for garbage that he would completely lose his chance a starter to Alex Stalock?
It will take plenty more games to get an answer to that. Which brings us to …
Things We Still Don’t Know
Again, San Jose has only played one game so far this season. One, singular. So now we ask: Since the Sharks played an aggressive 60 minutes on Wednesday night, can they maintain that level of effectiveness throughout the season? Even better, can they maintain that urgency when they aren’t playing a team that they dislike so much?
And you can bet that these shenanigans with having four alternate captains — excuse me, three alternates with Marc-Edouard Vlasic being rotated in and out of said role — is going to become yet another debate issue the second the Sharks suffer a terrible loss. Is there really a new culture forming in this locker room this season?
All we can really decifer for the night is that the Sharks got their redemption win and outplayed the Kings, and that they now have to get ready for their own home opener on Saturday, October 11 against the Winnipeg Jets. Puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7 pm.
Other Worthy Game Notes
Wednesday’s game marks the Sharks first ever shutout in a season opener, their third ever season-opening road win, and their first ever season opening win against a defending Stanley Cup champion (per @SharksStats).