82 games is a grind and a half. Especially this Sharks team that has played an additional 15 and 18 postseason games in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Plus many Sharks participated in the 2010 Winter Olympics as well. This team has played a lot of hockey in the past 2 1/2 years. They understand about high’s and low’s. They hit the wall about 10 days ago after their shootout loss in Colorado sent them to their 7th loss in 9 games. But after a shootout WIN last night over Darryl Sutter’s LA Kings, they have now won 4 straight. It will be a Merry Christmas in Teal Land.
Antii Niemi and Jonathan Quick dueled it out last night to a 1-1 draw after 65 minutes of hockey. It took Ryane Clowe’s shootout winner and some sparkling goaltending by Niemi to secure the teams 4th straight victory. The Sharks outshot the Kings 35-29 in a game that had terrific pace and intensity. Even though the teams only scored a goal each, this game did not lack excitement.
Logan Couture scored on a nice one-timer in the 2nd period. He puts himself in great positions to score. It can be something as subtle as moving a few inches to one side or another. It’s almost subconscious the way he goes about it. Its a sixth sense that truly gifted goal scorers like “Cooch” possess. They just know where to go at the right time to get a prime scoring chance. Guys like Teemu Selanne, Brett Hull or Luc Robitaille. Just pure snipers with a nose for the net. I’m not saying Logan Couture is there yet, but he has that same type of “sniper sixth sense”.
Aside from Logan’s offense, the Sharks generated a bunch of chances that went for naught. It seems like every time the Sharks turn around they are facing a hot goalie. I think two things: 1. Goalies are getting better than ever and there are very few slouches as starters in the NHL. In spite of all the changes to the game to promote offense, scoring goals is a monumental task. 2. The Sharks attack typically stays on the perimeter. They don’t attack the prime real estate right out in front of the net enough. Too many shots from the point hoping for a tip instead of working the puck down low and trying to crash the net. They need to implement the “Ryane Clowe” offensive philosophy. Take everything to the net and hope to take someone out or score a goal.
The most important thing now for the Sharks is to take these new good habits into 2012. The penalty kill has a long way to go (Kings only goal was a powerplay tally last night), but it has shown signs of improvement lately. They are now 4-0 in the six game homestand and can feel good about themselves heading into the Christmas break. And speaking of that, I’m about to do the same. They renew their vows to hate Anaheim on Monday night at the Tank as the Sharks go for 5 straight. Ducks have struggled mightily this year, but are 2-0 thus far versus San Jose. Should be a good one on “boxing day”.