If you look at San Jose’s remaining schedule, not only are 9 of the Sharks’ last 15 games against divisional opponents, but nearly all are against teams battling for a playoff spot. Additionally, San Jose’s strong play has them contending for the top two seeds while most of their remaining opponents will be vying for the lower seeds – this makes matchups, like last night’s against the Nashville Predators, possible first round opponents.
The 3-2 OT win by the Sharks definitely had the feel of a playoff tilt and while happy with the results, here are some observations I had from my seats at HP:
Nashville’s top line is able to generate pressure and offense because of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. These two defensemen are as good as any tandem in the National Hockey League. When the Preds gain the offensive zone, Suter and Weber take the opportunity to activate, creating scoring chances and confusion amongst the defenders.
A key to the Sharks’ successes in this game came when they created traffic in front of Pekka Rinne. At 6’5, Rinne is having a Vezina-worthy season so if you want to score on this big guy, shooting through sticks and getting deflections is your best bet. San Jose’s regulation goals came in this fashion and I think Marleau’s game-winner was partially deflected as well.
Both of Nashville’s goals came on the powerplay where the San Jose penalty-killers were basically caught puck-watching. Ian White gave Joel Ward a clear lane to the net from down low on their first goal and Shea Weber snuck in back-door to tie the game at 2-2 where he received a clean goal-mouth pass.
Speaking of the Sharks’ White, he may still be adjusting to the team’s style of play as this game wasn’t his best. I noticed, when making breakout passes, he has a tendency to look east/west rather than getting the puck north on the near side. This got him in trouble a few times during the game but is nothing more than a problem with execution.
Antii Niemi wasn’t as busy as Rinne, only having to face 25 shots, but he made several amazing saves through traffic, including two crucial stops on a Nashville powerplay late in the 2nd period. Expect him to get a night off soon.
Dan Boyle might be ready to get back into the lineup against Vancouver on Thursday night having missed the last five games with an upper-body injury sustained in their game against Pittsburgh.
Nine of the Sharks’ fifteen games remaining will be at home.
About the Author
Written by Alex Wasserstrom
Native Californian, former minor league pro, and current men's league superstar, Alex Wasserstrom is ProSportsBlogging.com's San Jose Sharks correspondent. Wanna talk puck? Shoot him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow him on Twitter (@Awassers).