(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
SAN JOSE– It was Joe Pavelski’s 600th NHL game. As an indicator of how the San Jose Sharks play without their not captain Joe Thornton, Saturday’s 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues was something of a worst possible scenario.Thornton did not seem to the be only Shark missing, and no one had a sound explanation afterwards.
The game start was eerily similar to the last time these teams played, on December 20th. The Blues came out fast and furious, outshooting the Sharks badly in the first ten minutes. From there the two games diverged sharply. Instead of a turn around for the Sharks, things went from bad to worse as the game wore on.
After the game, Logan Couture summarized the Sharks’ performance:
Right from the first shift, we weren’t even in that game. We were kidding ourselves, if two two was the score at the end of the first period. We were never in that game. It’s very disappointing to do that in any game, especially in your home building, to let a team that played last night come in and dominate you from the very first second of the game.
Every part of our game was bad. Nemo bailed us out, made a lot of big saves in the first period.
Did the Sharks think Thornton’s absence was to blame for their lackluster performance?
It’s happened before. Seasons are long, there’s guys going in and out. Obviously he’s a great piece of this team, so there’s a little absence but it doesn’t change anything we do as a group, system-wise. There’s no talk about anything. So it’s solely on the guys in here. It probably starts with me out there in the power play. We had chances to get in the game, to get going. We just didn’t do a good enough job.
If you can’t win missing one player then you’re not going to go very far. Injuries happen, it’s part of the game. You still have enough players on your team, in your organization to compete at an NHL level and we didn’t compete at an NHL level, I don’t even think we were close.
When you lose anybody, when you lose one of your top guys, every team loses a top guy. You’ve got to find a way to win without him. We’d love to have him, we’d love to have him back next game, but that’s not an excuse.
So, no, Joe Thornton’s injury does not explain the utter lack of anything good that the Sharks showed Saturday. The above players also agreed that the Sharks did everything wrong, nothing well… except for Niemi, who was pulled in the third period after keeping the team in it for the first.
The first period did not end like it did in the first game. A flurry of scoring from both teams gave the Blues a goal at 11:40 from T.J. Oshie, followed by two quick goals from the Sharks at 17:42 and 18:22, then another from Steen at 19:16. Melker Karlsson, assisted by Barclay Goodrow and Matt Tennyson, scored the first Sharks goal. Joe Pavelski, assisted by Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns scored the second.
Early in the second period, the Blues’ Jori Lehtera went to the box for hooking. The Sharks had some trouble getting through the neutral zone, never mind getting set up for any good power play time. the Sharks did get credit for two shots but never looked dangerous.
A couple of shifts after the power play ended, the Blues took another lead with another goal from TJ Oshie. The Blues looked more confident and in command of the game, making the first period tie seem like a fluke.
As the midpoint of the game approached, the Blues had outshot the Sharks 4-2 in the middle period.
At 10:38, Scott Hannan was called for interference. It was the Blues’ first power play, despite a quartet of penalties called in the first period that had not resulted in a power play for either team. Forty seconds into that, Kevin Shattenkirk was called for high sticking Matt Nieto, who was zipping around the Blues zone short-handed. Four-on-four, it took the Blues a little longer to push in to the Sharks’ zone but they got there and continued their attack.
With the 30 or so seconds they had of power play time, the Sharks started by icing the puck, and could not seem to complete a pass in the neutral zone or anywhere else. San Jose appeared utterly overwhelmed. The only Shark not playing well below par was Antti Niemi.
At the end of the second, the Sharks got another power play as Jaden Schwartz went off for hooking. The Sharks’ third line of James Sheppard, Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson drew that penalty with good forechecking and refusal to be evicted from St. Louis territory.
The Sharks spent much more time outside of their own zone during that power play, but when Brent Burns tripped at the blue line it epitomized the Sharks’ game: inexplicable, hapless. The Sharks ended the period with four shots, and gave up another goal as soon as their power play ended. Jaden Schwartz, after grappling for the puck behind the goal line, passed the puck out front to Kevin Shattenkirk, who was wide open.
After two periods, the shot count was 24-14 Blues, the score 4-2 Blues.
The Sharks started the third period with a spark, making a good early push. Unfortunately, that fizzled to an icing call which became another penalty to Scott Hannan. The resulting St.. Louis power play took only five seconds to score, with a shot from the blue line tipped by Jaden Schwartz. Assists went to Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The Next Blues goal was the last for Niemi. A long-distance shot from Dmitrij Jaskin ushered Alex Stalock into the Sharks net.
The Blues had another power play at 8:26 when Barclay Goodrow was called for holding. The Blues played it very cautiously, hesitating to shoot. The Sharks did not do much to change that, hanging back on their penalty kill and not challenging the Blues. Finally, TJ Oshie threw the puck in from the goal line and bounced it off of a body in front of the net. That gave him a hat trick, and gave the Blues their seventh goal. Swaths of the sellout crowd started to leave SAP.
It was the first sellout the Sharks had seen in a while.
The Sharks’ last power play of the game saw Wingels, Karlsson, Sheppard, Tennyson and Braun start. That power play only lasted 32 seconds before Wingels was called for holding. The score did not change, ending in a 7-2 final.
With Thornton injured and John Scott suspended, it was all hands on ice Saturday. Tye McGinn started on the fourth line with Desjardins and Micheal Haley, with Tomas Hertl on a line with Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto. For most of the second and third periods, McLellan swapped McGinn and Hertl, but it did not seem to improve matters. In the last six or seven minutes of the game, they were both back where they started the game.
TJ Oshie and Patrick Berglund led the Blues in shots on goal with five each. Oshie and Ryan Reaves led the Blues in hits with four each. Alex Pietrangelo led the team in time on ice with 20:47. Brian Elliott made 18 saves on 20 shots.
Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels led the Sharks in shots with three each, and Wingels led in hits with five. Brent Burns led the team in ice time with 23:35. Antti Niemi made 21 saves on 27 shots. Alex Stalock made two saves on three shots.
The Sharks hit the road to play the Jets on Monday in Winnipeg at 5:00 pm PT.