(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner, February 5, 2013)
I’d really have to see them walk to be sure. These don’t seem like the Ducks we all knew, didn’t like, and that the Sharks could usually beat back in the day. Last season was one thing. The Ducks beating the Sharks so often seemed like one of many very strange happenings in a very bad season. But this season? What do the Ducks know that the Sharks don’t?
The Ducks blocked 24 shots to the Sharks 15. Maybe this game was about slowing the future Ducks down since they obviously have San Jose’s number. Hitting them with a lot of shots is one way to do that. Another stat that was kind of interesting was that the Ducks out-hit the Sharks 23-19, and out-shot them 32-26. Doesn’t the team without the puck usually hit the most? So the Sharks had the puck, and didn’t shoot it? I guess if you count the blocked shots in there it isn’t so bad.
Couture scored the only Sharks goal. That wasn’t so unusual, but to have the assists go to Andrew Desjardins from fourth line, and Tommy Wingels from the third, that was kind of cool and unlikely. I guess that’s what happens to the lines when Clowe gets sent away for nearly a third of the game.
That was completely unnecessary. I don’t mean the call, the NHL is doing what it’s doing, they have their checklist to follow… when they bother to make a call. But the hit was so peculiar, I couldn’t believe anyone would cry foul play. I don’t agree that Murray should be left to his own devices. If his head was hit, you can’t expect him to retaliate. But the “hit” looked so much like Murray losing his footing and falling sideways in front of Matt Beleskey that I don’t see how anyone could claim it was cross checking or boarding or worth fighting about. If Murray had stayed on his feet, Beleskey would have gone into the boards next to him. That’s what I saw anyway.
About staying on feet: that was one sticky mess of an ice surface, if the Sharks skaters were any indication. Very early in the first period, Michal Handzus went down while trying to retrieve a puck behind the Ducks’ net. I thought it was merely inattention or a well-timed nudge from another player. Minutes later, Couture did the same thing, in roughly the same place. Later in the game, Marc-Edouard Vlasic tripped while retrieving a puck, with no one else around: same part of the ice. He didn’t fall but he did stumble. Clowe stumbled later, on a completely different partof the ice. A Duck apparently got his stick stuck between the ice and the boards at one point. With all of that in mind, it is a lot less surprising that Murray fell while trying to stop, and fell exactly the way he did, across Beleskey’s path.
It was a mess, but it was the Ducks’ mess, so they knew where to find things and how to not fall down. Hell of a home ice advantage that.
Havlat didn’t stumble or fall down. No, he just took another hooking penalty. I hope someone has had a talk with him. He’s supposed to be a fast skater, isn’t he? Can’t he think of a better way to slow someone down, get around them, or take the puck away? I think they’re onto you, Marty. You’ll need to give that trick up.
One goal from a line with guys from three lines on it, that’s what the Sharks came away with. Assists for the Ducks goals should have gone to the Honda Center boards and Gomez’s stick. If you squint your eyes, it doesn’t look like a very bad game from the Sharks.
Maybe the Ducks are just playing well. They’ve been as successful as the Sharks have this season, if you ignore the difference between a regulation loss and a shootout loss.
At least the Sharks’ penalty kill streak is still alive. That is pretty amazing. More amazing is that it is not only alive, it is growing stronger. That 3 on 5 short handed attack that Marleau and Braun and Couture pulled off was… it was… just…
Totally worth losing the game. I can’t hold anything against the team after that. It reminded me of a penalty kill I once knew out of Philadelphia, infinitely more dangerous than the power play for the same team. More of that please.
Maybe the Sharks needed to get a regulation loss out of their system. The games will get tougher, now that other teams have found their short season legs and gotten their acts together.
What about tonight’s opponent, the Blackhawks, the league leaders in everything? Well, since history is mysteriously repeating itself with the Ducks, maybe… nope. Last season’s series was a split, mostly one goal games. That doesn’t tell me anything. Yes, the Sharks should be getting a little antsy, maybe even angry about losing their grip on the winning game. But they’ll also be tired from playing yesterday and traveling last night. So that’s a wash.
I don’t think the Blackhawks are a lot like the Ducks. Obviously, they are playing well, since they still haven’t lost in regulation. But maybe the difference between teams isn’t so important this season. Maybe they will all be playing with the same urgency, a tendency to shoot a lot and quickly. Maybe the Sharks will find a way to do that tonight.
It doesn’t seem like the opponent is the answer. Short of finding a way to go east, I don’t see any team having an easy time of it out west. The Sharks got lucky by starting against two teams that were predicted to struggle early. That’s water under the bridge, now they just have to work harder.
If it seems like I forgot the very amazing save by Jason Demers, or any of his perfectly composed and excellent play, I didn’t. I’m just not surprised in the least, and I don’t feel like pointing out how completely wrong some observers were when they lumped him in with Colin White.