I have a confession to make. I lost faith yesterday. I thought there was no way the Sharks would win last night, there were too many things that had to change in their game for them to have a chance, and Tampa Bay was good enough that even with a great game the Sharks had their work cut out for them. If you watched the first episode of “Tank Talk” yesterday both Nolan and I predicted a loss, though he was generous enough to say we would take it into overtime. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong, not just because we need the 2 points, but because the performance last night restored my faith that this team can play for and take the Stanley Cup.
Now, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. This was one game, and I would say Tampa Bay may have been due for a loss, but if the Sharks can keep playing the way they did last night, they are a contender. Going into the game Tampa Bay was not just the top team in the NHL, but they were on quite a streak. They had not lost a game in regulation since November, 15-0-1 in their last 16 games. There are three forwards on their line with 20+ goals so far this season, and a fourth with 18. Both of their goalies are over 90% for save percentage, each having played half the games this season. Oh and to top it off, they have the #1 PowerPlay in the league. Playing this team is a tall order any night, but with 3 of their starting defensemen missing, including their shutdown pair, it seem an insurmountable task. So how did the Sharks do it? Burns and Karlsson Burns had 30 minutes of ice time last night and tallied 3 assists, which isn’t a surprise with his skill in the offensive zone. What was surprising was how well he played defense. I didn’t see any of his characteristic cheating in the offensive zone, and his play didn’t create any of the breakaways that have been plaguing Jones and Dell this season. This was by far his best game of the season.
For Karlsson’s part, we saw 29 minutes of the high caliber play he’s been delivering for the last month. He’s finally found his groove playing with Dillon and DeBoer was smart not to change up that pairing last night. With two assists last night he extended his point streak to 12 games.
The thing I didn’t like was their play together on the Power Play. Yes, they both assisted with the only PP goal last night, but most of the time they look like they are in each other’s way. It would be better to split them up and have two PP teams with a threat from the blue line. Martin Jones
By far his best game this season. Without question the better defense in front of him made a difference. He only faced 20 shots on goal from a team that averages 33 per game, but they had a number of high quality chances. Jones looked more like he did in 2015-2016 when the sharks made it to the Finals. Not only did he play a good position game when he had help, he was able to make the tough saves he has struggled with this year. This isn’t out of character for Jones, he always seems to play better in playoffs than in the regular season, but it’s good to be reminded that he can play this well when it’s needed. Evander Kane
Playing on Hertl’s line seems to be perfect for Kane. He had 2 goals, both of which increased the Shark’s lead to 2 keeping them rolling. He played with visible confidence and was more aggressive than he was in the first half of the season. With his production up, the Sharks were able to roll three dangerous lines.
Overall, this was the best game the Sharks have played all season, and they were able to do it without their full cast. Hopefully this will be a confidence booster and when Vlasic, Braun, and Simek return to the ice they will be an overall stronger team.