Let the march to Lord Stanley commence

The NHL’s trade deadline, and the usual flurry of deals that comes with it, is just a few short weeks away. After that, the Sharks roster that will try and bring the Stanley Cup to Northern California will be set in stone. The Sharks kicked off the second half of the season by punishing the Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-0 in their first outing, post All-Star break. They beat the hapless Jackets up and down the ice. But the Blue Jackets are the dregs of the League. Things get a little tougher the rest of the way. Most noteworthy from that tilt other than the goals was Anti Niemi posted his second straight shutout. He was brilliant in the game making several spectacular stops. But the best thing I saw was the way the team, to a man, stands up for each other.  Early in the 1st period, Jared Boll took a shot at Thornton. It was dirty and designed to get Jumbo out of his comfort zone. It backfired as Thornton scored twice and Jim Vandermeer got the gloves off with Boll a few shifts later and took care of business.

Tonight they hosted the Dallas Stars. The Stars came into the game trailing the Sharks in the Pacific Division standings by 8 points, 62-54.  With the huge 9 game road trip looming later in the month, getting some points at home beforehand is vital. Despite not allowing a goal the past 2 starts, Antii Niemi was a scratch in the game, his shoulder has some soreness. He is listed as day to day. So in stepped back-up goalie, Thomas Greiss into the net.

The Sharks jumped all over the Stars with a couple of tip in goals in the first period. Michael Handzus started things off with a nice tip of a Brent Burns slapper. Later on a Sharks power play, the puck made its way to the point and Thornton directed it towards the net. Joe Pavelski was screening in front and got a stick on it to deflect it home for a 2-0 first period Sharks lead.Things were chippy in period one, what you might expect from Stars @ Sharks. The Sharks current stretch has them playing their best defensive hockey of the season.

In the second, Dallas grinder Steve Ott cut the lead to 2-1. That goal ended the Sharks shutout streak. But not before they had established a new franchise record without allowing a goal for 190 minutes, 51 seconds. But that was as close as the Stars would get on this night. By the end of the second, Logan Couture made it 3-1 with a powerplay strike. Just 1 minute and 44 seconds later,  Thornton made it 4-1 with the easiest, left alone, tap in, nobody is even near me, goal of his life. After two periods, a few things are clear. The Sharks are playing some fantastic hockey right now. The second period marked  the 5th consecutive period in which the Sharks scored 2 goals.

In the 3rd, the Stars showed some signs of life. At 6:22, Jaime Benn converted for Dallas to make it 4-2. But Ryane Clowe cashed in on a Logan Couture rebound to make it 5-2 Sharks. That was the final score.  It was Clowe’s first game back since his injury and he didn’t show any signs that the layoff affected him. Another recent return from injury was Brent Burns, playing just his second game back. He was a huge factor on the ice all night with 3 assists and some quality work in his own end. It looks like both these guys are good to go.

Nice, quality win over a division rival tonight for San Jose. It’s always a plus when your #1 netminder can take the night off and you still pick up two points. Pavelski and Thornton both finished with a goal and an assist on the night. Marleau had 2 assists and Thomas Greiss picked up 19 saves for his 7th win of the season. The Sharks now have 64 points in 49 games played. They lead the Pacific Division by 4 points over the Kings with 2 games in hand.
Next up for the Sharks, they play at Phoenix this Saturday night at 5 pm.

Second half of the season is now underway and the Sharks looking every bit like the Cup contender they expect to be..

3 Stars- #3 Brent Burns, #2 Logan Couture, #1 Joe Pavelski


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