The San Jose Sharks have started the 2014-15 NHL season with a 4-2-1 start and are currently tied for second in the Pacific Division along with the Los Angeles Kings. I figure it's about time we review each game so far.
Game 1: San Jose Sharks (0-0-0) at Los Angeles Kings (0-0-0)
The Sharks started off their season against the team that ended their previous two, obviously one more heartbreaking than the other. Following a gut-wrenching banner-raising ceremony for any Sharks fan, the Sharks jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a Tommy Wingels snipe from a bad angle, a rare soft goal allowed by Jonathan Quick. Patrick Marleau would add a powerplay goal to make it 2-0 in the second. Tommy Wingels scored his second of the night with a nifty move on the breakaway to fool Quick and make it 3-0. Seconds later, Quick would turn the puck over behind the net and Matt Nieto tapped it in for his first of the year in what would be the last goal of the night, as the Sharks won 3-0. Antti Niemi made 34 saves for the shutout win, including robbing Jeff Carter on a wraparound chance. The Sharks were clearly fueled by the emotion of coming back to LA after the humiliating first-round loss last spring. So far, I would even say this was their best game of the season. They dominated the Stanley Cup champions for most of the game, managing to get Quick pulled after the fourth goal. Mirco Mueller and Chris Tierney made their NHL debuts. They both played well, but Mueller in particular was fantastic, managing to chase down Marian Gaborik on a breakaway chance. Overall, it was a great game for the Sharks, and an unimaginable start to the season.
Game 2: Winnipeg Jets (1-0-0) at San Jose Sharks (1-0-0)
The Sharks went back home to the SAP Center for the first time since their loss in Game 7 in the Western Quarterfinals for their home opener. The Sharks jumped out to another early lead, Tomas Hertl and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scoring their firsts of the season just 1:50 apart from each other in the first period. The hosts outshot the visiting Jets, who were coming off a blowout win over Arizona, 15-3 in the first period. Patrick Marleau would add his second goal of the season in the second, giving the Sharks a 3-0 lead in the second period. Alex Stalock wound up with 30 saves, and the Sharks started off the season with back-to-back shutouts for the first time in franchise history, with two different netminders nonetheless. That sounds great and all, but the Sharks did not have a single shot in the third period. Not only that, but they had four powerplay opportunities in the period. In fact, they went 0-8 on the PP that game, which is why we probably haven't seen Vlasic on the powerplay since. This was one of those games where the score just doesn't tell the story. The Sharks had an ugly game for their home opener, and had it not been for the 3-0 start, they probably would have lost this game.
Game 3: San Jose at Washington Capitals
The Sharks underwent their first East Coast swing of the season, beginning the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. to meet one of the league's best scorers: Alexander Ovechkin. Matt Irwin scored 2 goals and drew a penalty on his first three shifts in his season debut. John Scott (yes, John Scott) scored his first goal as a Shark, his third of his illustrious career as the Sharks jumped out to yet another early lead, 3-0 at the end of the first. Braden Holtby was pulled in favor of Justin Peters after the Scott goal. The Capitals then came back with two goals of their own in the second period, but Joe Pavelski answered on a fluky breakaway goal to make it a 4-2 lead. Ovechkin found the back of the net in the middle of the period, making it 4-3 going into the third. Tommy Wingels scored his third of the season, giving the Sharks a two-goal lead. However, the Caps weren't dead yet, and Troy Brouwer and Alex Ovechkin managed to tie the game to send it to OT. An exciting 4-on-4 period was proven to be fruitless, so the game was to be settled in the dreaded shootout. Joe Pavelski was the only one who scored in the tiebreaker, giving the Sharks their second road win of the season. The Capitals did manage to end the Sharks' shutout streak, though Niemi made 29 saves on 34 shots. Looking at the stat sheet, the numbers would tell you that he didn't have a very good night. However, the numbers lied that Tuesday night. Niemi was incredible, keeping his team in the game multiple times. One of my concerns at the beginning of the season was the defense. Brad Stuart showed his age last year, and I'm glad his gone. This year's equivalent seems to be Scott Hannan. Hannan played in his 1,000th game that night and it showed. He doesn't seem to be at the speed the Sharks would like to play at. His defensive ability has seemed to deteriorate as well. Mueller didn't play, and I think this is where the Sharks miss his youth, speed, and defensive ability. If it was up to me, I would have the defensive pairings of Burns-Irwin, Vlasic-Demers, and Mueller-Braun. I think separating Mueller and Burns would be best for the Sharks and Braun's lockdown defenseman abilities would prove to be vital for Mueller's development. Rant aside, this was a great night for forward depth, but not defensively. Niemi has looked good so far, which is good for the Sharks. I think we are seeing Vezina Niemi, rather than Mr. Consistently Inconsistent Niemi from last season.
Game 4: San Jose Sharks at New York Islanders:
The Sharks would play their last game at the Nassau Coliseum before the Isles' move to the Barclays Center next season to face the undefeated Long Island squad. Maybe it was the last game going to shootout or travel weariness, but for whatever reason, the Islanders just dominated the Sharks. Alex Stalock stood on his head the entire game. The Sharks were outshot 45-23, but were still able to carry this game into yet another shootout. Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, and Tomas Hertl scored in regulation for the Sharks, while Nick Leddy, Kyle Okposo, and Josh Bailey put the puck in the cage for the Isles. The shootout went five rounds and was ended by John Tavares handing Team Teal their first loss of the season. In a game where they were just dominated, the Sharks were lucky to get a point out of it. It's just a shame to see two good teams go at it only for it to end in a shootout. Would extending OT another five minutes do that much harm? Imagine this: Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns going against John Tavares and crew with a more open ice. Would that not be exciting? Think about it, NHL.
Game 5: San Jose Sharks at New Jersey Devils:
Coming off a disappointing loss against the Islanders, the Sharks visited New Jersey for a bout against the Devils in their home opener. Joe Pavelski had a powerplay goal in the first and Logan Couture added another one in the second. Patrick Marleau put his name on the scoreline with a goal in the third to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead. The Devils clawed their way back with two goals and made it 3-2. Joe Thornton buried an empty-net goal to seal the game and get his 1200th career point. The powerplay was better for the Sharks, what with the two goals. Vlasic is a great defenseman and all, but he does not belong on the PP. I don't mind Mueller being there though. On the topic of the 1200th point milestone, congrats to Jumbo. I've been a fan of the former captain ever since he came to Team Teal in November 2005. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame, maybe even first-ballot. You can't argue with his assist totals and averaging over a point per game for his career. He is also the one of three players to have back-to-back 90+ assist seasons in '05-'06 and '06-'07 seasons, along with Mario Lemieux, and of course, Wayne Gretzky. Overall, though, this wasn't the Sharks' best efforts. Too many turnovers in the neutral and defensive ends to create good scoring chances, but at least they got the 2 points.
Game 6: San Jose Sharks at New York Rangers: Oh, goodness. Can we not talk about this game? Questionable goaltending and defending, plus a great night by Lunqvist lead to the 4-0 disaster at the Garden of Madison Square. You would think that game would motivate them, but...
Game 7: San Jose Sharks at Boston Bruins:
This game just frustrates me to no end. Before I get to the frustrating last four minutes of the game, I guess I should summarize. The two teams went back and forth the entire game, no lead bigger than one. Seth Griffith of the Bruins made it 4-3 in the third. The Bruins had two PP goals, while the Sharks had one by Logan Couture. In the last four minutes, Patrice Bergeron was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. Essentially, the Sharks had the rest of the game on the powerplay. They didn't score. I don't think that they came remotely close to scoring. Inability to control passes, no one open, poor shot selection, and no one in Rask's face lead to this event. The Bruins eventually buried an empty-netter to seal the game. The Sharks' special teams has been unimpressive so far.
Overall, the Sharks' first seven games have been somewhat up-and-down. The Sharks have their problems with special teams and defense, but their forward depth is still scary, and the Stalock-Niemi tandem has proven to be effective as well. I could see them winning the division, but most likely they'll take the second Pacific Division spot with another date with the Kings. Who knows, it's only seven games in. Leave your comments about the Sharks below.