That Was Easy (Better Luck Next Time, Phoenix)
Coyotes @ Sharks
That was almost exactly how the Sharks would have wanted to start the 2011-12 season. Sure, it would have been nice if less starters had been injured and if they could kill a freaking penalty, but all in all, a 6-3 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at the home opener is a great start to what hopes to be a great season.
No starting goalie? No backup goalie? No problem. Enter Thomas Greiss, who is just two years removed from backing up Evgeni Nabokov. He played in Sweden last season, but re-upped his contract with the Sharks this summer by signing a one-year deal. Greiss definitely rose to the occasion tonight, stopping 26 of 29 shots. While those aren't great numbers, he made the saves he needed to and was a solid presence in net.
No Martin Havlat? That's okay; Havlat is still out with a shoulder injury, but Tommy Wingels stepped up to play on the second line, as well as the second powerplay unit. It was apparent that the Sharks didn't miss Heatley and Setoguchi, who both left to Minnesota this summer, as San Jose was scoring by committee in the season opener. New to the top line, Pavelski chipped in two goals playing the right wing with Thornton and Marleau. Desjardins, who manned the fourth line center spot, also scored two and the third line center Handzus scored a lucky wrap-around.
No penalty kill? Well, I guess not everything changed from last season. The Sharks, who were 24th in the league on the PK last season, allowed 3 goals on 7 penalty kills, one of which being a 5 on 3. but the powerplay was clicking, where they were 3 for 6. For those of you at home without a calculator handy, that's 50%, which is a pretty good percentage in the NHL.
The score really does not indicate how far and apart these two teams were. The Sharks dominated the game, firing 52 shots on Mike Smith, while allowing only 29. Two of Phoenix's goals also came in the third period, when San Jose already had a commanding 5 goal lead. My prediction of Phoenix being the worst team in the West at season's end is looking pretty good after this game; keep your chin up Smith, it's not like you had any help.
As a Sharks fan, who are you more excited about scoring two goals in this game: Pavelski or Desjardins? While I'm glad Pavs found chemistry with Marleau, who assisted on both goals, I personally like this Desjardins kid. It's just good to see the kids on the fourth line getting it done, showing that hopefully the Sharks do have enough forward depth to do something this year. Plus, Desjardins is only the second player in the NHL to ever wear number 69 (this has not been fact checked, but it sounds about right, no?).
If this game showed anything, it was that the Sharks will shoot a lot of pucks this year and score a lot of goals; sounds very much like the last couple of seasons. Plus, when Niemi comes back, the Sharks will be even better, with a Stanley Cup winning goalie backing them up. With this new D-corps and revamped offense, if the Sharks don't do something special this season, it will be a major disappointment.
#3 - Marleau
#2 - Pavelski
#1 - Desjardins
The Sharks don't play another game until this Friday, when they drive down to Anaheim for the Ducks season opener. That should be a really fun game, as it always is when these two teams play. But we really have to wait almost an entire week for some more Sharks' hockey? Come on schedulers, pull your head out of assignment and give us some hockey!
From Around The NHL:
Montreal "Thrashes" the Jets at homecoming. Why do I have a feeling this is going to be a headline on NHL.com?
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