Sharks, Ducks fight their way into NHL regular season
Sunday in Anaheim marked the final game of the preseason for both the Sharks and Ducks, but judging by the 82 penalty minutes dished out, and fisticuffs left and right, neither team cared this was an exhibition.
Kesler eventually received a game misconduct for another altercation in the second period, when he and Sharks defenseman Dan Kelly went at it alongside Michael Haley and Josh Manson, who had dropped the gloves first.
Later in the second, a pair of heavyweights in Brenden Dillon and Nick Ritchie squared off, a fight featuring several connecting blows and cheers from the 16,444 in attendance. And in the third, Haley dropped the gloves again, this time with Jared Boll.
In all, eight fighting majors were dished out — a “hockey-game-broke-out-at-a-fight” kind of regular season tune-up.
Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer described it tersely as:
“Typical Anaheim-San Jose.”
Said goaltender Aaron Dell:
“I think it was a little bit meaner than usual.”
Newcomer Mikkel Boedker, still trying to familiarize himself with the names on the roster, understood the animosity between the Sharks and Ducks:
“It’s part of hockey. Part of two teams that don’t really like each other.”
Maybe that’s why the game, which featured the Ducks’ opening-night roster against a Sharks team that scratched eight of its core players including Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns, seemed to carry the intensity of a playoff matchup.
If it did, then how it ended should sting, as Corey Perry — man Sharks fans’ least-favorite player — scored the game-winning goal for Anaheim in overtime with a spectacular individual effort.
With more ice in overtime with the 3-on-3, Perry twirled around and around in the offensive zone and gave defenseman David Schlemko — the Sharks’ other key offseason acquisition — a rude welcoming to the rivalry as Perry backed into Schlemko and waited before turning and slipping away to fire a wicked wrist shot for a 3-2 win. The goal came moments after Tomas Hertl was denied by Jonathan Bernier on a breakaway.
Still, the Sharks’ “B-team” hung with the Ducks’ top guns for more than three periods, something DeBoer lauded:
“I’m real proud of the effort we got out of the young guys we put in the lineup tonight. I thought they held their own.”
DeBoer noted that the Sharks dropped Friday’s preseason game 3-1 to the Coyotes despite playing their NHL roster against Arizona’s young players:
“I’m not reading too much into that. I’m sure Anaheim will be fine, but I’m proud of our effort.”
It was a busy night for Schlemko, who scored the Sharks’ second goal on a 5-on-3 power play, slapping home a one-timer in between the faceoff circles off a feed from Joonas Donskoi to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead.
But Schlemko gave one back in the third. He turned the puck over at the blue line to Jakob Silfverberg, who broke the other away untouched and slapped it home to even the score at 2-2.
Silfverberg had gotten the Ducks on the board late in the second when he ripped a wrist shot off a faceoff past Dell.
Joonas Donskoi scored the Sharks’ first goal in the first period on a strong individual effort of his own, stickhandling the puck through two defenders in the zone before tapping it past Bernier.
Final Roster Decisions
With the season beginning for real on Wednesday, DeBoer admitted he would like a little more time to make a decision on final roster cuts. The Sharks are currently five players over the 23-player maximum. It means many of the youngsters who saw playing in the preseason — Barclay Goodrow, Michael Haley, Ryan Carpenter, Dan Kelly, Kevin Labanc, Dylan DeMelo and Nikolay Goldobin — will be on the cut line.
DeBoer said the amount of young talent was a positive:
“The depth of the group has probably impressed me the most. We’ve got four or five forwards, two or three defensemen that aren’t going to be on our team that I’m going to have confidence bringing up and putting on the ice, which is a great luxury.”
A New Backup
Dell, who has spent the last two seasons with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, made 22 saves on 25 shots. He made a nifty glove save on Cam Fowler early in the game and also stoned Ryan Getzlaf from point blank late, stretching out the left pad.
DeBoer said Dell is on his way to becoming the Sharks’ No. 2 netminder:
“He’s calm, composed, he’s athletic, he’s a quick goalie. He’s done a good job. There’s only 60 jobs in the world in this league at that position. It’s tough to break in to that, but he’s knocking on the door.”
Dell feels comfortable with the new role:
“I feel pretty good about it. We had a lot our top guys out tonight. Once they get back into it, I think we’re going to be a good team.”
A Revamped Penalty Kill?
Killing penalties was a weakness for the Sharks last season, as they finished in the bottom third of the league at an 80.5 percent clip. But after holding the Ducks scoreless on all six power plays on Sunday, the Sharks were a perfect 24-of-24 while shorthanded in the preseason.
“It’s an area we’ve flagged for big improvement this year. I thought the guys are grasping what we’re trying to do really well.”
Boedker, the newcomer, already likes what he sees from the system:
“That’s a big credit to the system we have and the coaches that put it into place, but also the players that are grinding out there. We’re doing a good job keeping the shots away and making sure the players can see them.”
‘You Better Jump On’
Adding Boedker wasn’t exactly a big splash in free agency, but it has to be refreshing for GM Doug Wilson to know the former Coyote chose San Jose because the Sharks came off a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
When asked about joining a championship contender, Boedker said:
“It’s exciting. You don’t get an opportunity to do that often. When you do, you better jump on. It’s obviously a good opportunity and hopefully we can cash in on it.”
Boedker, who agreed that he brings speed and play-making ability to the Sharks roster, said he knows he will be a good fit:
“It’s different with a new system and all that but it’s been very good. It’s a great organization. I love the guys in the room. It’s been very good and it will continue throughout the season.”