SAN JOSE – It’s not very often that an NHL team makes history, but the negative emotions outweigh the positive ones after the game is through.
That’s what happened on Saturday night at SAP Center, though, as the Sharks became the first-ever NHL team to start the season with consecutive shutouts by different goaltenders – but were outplayed for the majority of the game, taking a miserable 0-for-8 on the power play, and not recording a single shot on goal in the third period.
The Sharks won 3-0 on goals from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau to improve to 2-0, but there is much to be concerned about heading into a five-game road trip starting Tuesday in Washington.
“People who didn’t see game, they’re going to say, ‘Boy the Sharks are off to a pretty good start.’ But that was not a well-played game on our behalf by any means,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I thought we played a good 26-27 minutes, then after that we weren’t close to being the better team.”
Vlasic and Hertl tallied in the first five minutes and change of the first period, as the Sharks were moving up the ice and through the neutral zone with ease. It was a dominant opening frame for the home team.
The Jets regrouped though, perhaps taking momentum from killing off minor penalty after minor penalty. San Jose had a grand total of 15 minutes and 41 seconds on the power play, including a brief two-man advantage, and collected a grand total of six shots on goal during that span.
“I thought our power play absolutely sucked the life out of our team today,” said McLellan, who could have ended that phrase a few words earlier. “That’s probably as weak as it’s been in a long, long time. We have some work to do there.”
Marleau said: “Passes weren’t on the tape. I think we were trying to be too fancy. They’ve got some good penalty killers over there and get sticks on passes, but I think we need to funnel more pucks to the net and try to get those ugly goals.”
The best player on the ice for San Jose was its goaltender, as Alex Stalock made 30 saves, many of which were difficult. It wasn’t an easy game for him to play, after he saw just three shots in the first period before Winnipeg came on and the Sharks recoiled.
The Jets did a good job of getting bodies to the front of the net, too, but that didn’t rattle the 27-year-old, who credited those protecting him.
"Second chances, they didn't have many,” Stalock said. “The D-men did a good job. Getting [Blake] Wheeler and [Dustin] Byfuglien and all those guys out of there, it's important."
From a defensive standpoint, McLellan admitted to being pleased, as his team has yet to give up a single goal this season. The Sharks became just the seventh team in NHL history to start the year with consecutive shutouts, including Antti Niemi’s 34-save performance against Los Angeles.
“Both goaltenders have to feel really good about the way they played,” McLellan said. “Defensively we got running around a little bit at times, but we didn’t give up the big mistake in both games.”
Marleau said: “We feel confident with either one. They’ve both proven that when they’re on top of their game, they’re good goalies.”
There is some heavy lifting to be done, though, and the Sharks were fortunate to escape with a win while learning what needs to be drastically improved.