Sharks road trip answers few questions
The San Jose Sharks’ road trip started with a bang in D.C. and ended with a thud in Beantown.
A 2-2-1 record on a tough, five-game East coast swing is nothing to celebrate or panic over. Each team San Jose faced — the Capitals, Islanders, Devils, Rangers and Bruins — are either postseason contenders or much improved from last year.
The Sharks and Bruins went back and forth for two periods Tuesday night before Boston scored three unanswered goals in the third — the latter an empty-netter to make the score 5-3 after the Sharks failed to capitalize on a four-minute power play at the end of the third period.
San Jose had a full four minutes on the man-advantage to tie the game up late, but failed to convert.
The Sharks started the trip with their grittiest win of the season, a 6-5 win over the Capitals last Tuesday. The Sharks held a 4-1 lead at one point thanks to a surprising two-goal night from Matt Irwin and an even more shocking goal by John Scott, but squandered the lead when they allowed two goals late in the third period.
Despite that, the Sharks and Antti Niemi stood tall, stymying the Capitals in the shootout.
Their next game against the Islanders on Oct. 16 was very similar — a back-and-forth, loose affair — except the Islanders outshot the Sharks 45-23 and wound up winning the shootout. Tomas Hertl scored a beauty of a goal on a quick wrist shot to tie the game at 3-3 in the third period and at least give the Sharks a point by getting to overtime.
The Sharks played their best game of the road trip in a 4-2 win over the Devils last Saturday. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks in part to two gorgeous power play goals by Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture that involved puck movement, excellent spacing, and keeping it simple.
The Devils cut the lead to 3-2 in the third period, but Joe Thornton sealed the deal with an empty-net goal, which also happened to be his 1200th career point, a little ironic that it didn’t come on an assist.
The Sharks crossed the Hudson River to get blasted 4-0 by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Sunday. Fatigue and poor play from an uncomfortable Alex Stalock led to two goals in four seconds in the second period.
Ultimately, little can be gleaned from this first road trip. The lines remain uncertain after coach Todd McLellan mixed up every forward line against the Bruins, neither Niemi nor Stalock has distinguished himself as the No. 1 starter, and the power play is still a work-in-progress.
McLellan summed up the road trip on Tuesday night after the loss to the Bruins, via NHL.com:
“We played in some tough buildings. I’m going to sound like we’re satisfied by saying that; we’re not. We’re disappointed in some of the areas of our game and in times of our game. But we have some experience on the road now. We got some of our younger players into games. Would we like to come home 3-1-1? Yeah. We didn’t, and now we got to make some hay at home for a couple games.”
The Sharks return home for a very brief homestand, playing the Blue Jackets on Thursday and the Sabres on Saturday before heading right back on the road to Anaheim on Sunday to face the Ducks.