Instant Replay: Meier scores in debut as Sharks handle Habs on road

Instant Replay: Meier scores in debut as Sharks handle Habs on road


MONTREAL – Timo Meier’s NHL debut was a success both for the player, and for his team.

Meier scored on his first career shot, while Patrick Marleau, David Schlemko and Melker Karlsson also added goals in San Jose’s 4-2 win at Bell Centre on Friday night.

The Sharks improved to 3-0 on their four-game road trip, which concludes on Sunday in Chicago. They have won four games in a row, and seven of their last 10 overall (7-3-0) to remain in first place in the Pacific Division.

Meier’s score upped San Jose’s lead to 3-0 in the first period, and was the game-winner. Joonas Donskoi worked the puck back to David Schlemko at the point, and Meier got in front of the net to swipe in the rebound of Schlemko’s blast on his backhand at 13:18.

A pair of power play goals staked the Sharks a 2-0 lead before that.

Schlemko’s first goal as a Shark at 8:50 opened the scoring. The defenseman, who has had plenty of shots this season but no goals, took advantage of Kevin Labanc screening Carey Price and hammered it through.

About two minutes later, Joe Thornton patiently waited behind the net for Marleau to present his stick, and Marleau slammed in the dish from his longtime teammate at the nine-minute mark.

The Sharks outshot the Habs 15-4 in the first period in a dominant 20 minutes.

The onslaught continued early in the second with a goal from the fourth line. Micheal Haley found Karlsson in the slot, and on his second whack at the puck Karlsson chipped it through Price at 6:44.

Al Montoya replaced Price at that point, after the Vezina Trophy frontrunner allowed four goals on 18 shots.

The Sharks were decidedly sluggish after that, registering just five shots on goal after Price’s exit and letting the Canadiens back into the game.

Montreal broke through on the scoreboard when Bryan Flynn finished off a cross-ice pass from Zach Redmond on a rush at 10:32 of the third period, making it 4-1. Jeff Petry’s soft wrist shot from high in the zone brought the Canadiens back to within 4-2, deflecting off of Martin Jones’ glove after making its way through a maze of bodies at 13:48.

The Canadiens kept up the pressure, but Jones stopped Max Pacioretty with 50 seconds to go and San Jose held on.

The Sharks improved to 13-4-0 in their last 17 meetings with Montreal, and swept the two-game season series. San Jose is 13-6-0 this season against the Eastern Conference.

Montreal entered the game as the stingiest team in the league on home ice, allowing just 1.59 goals-per game.

Special teams

The Sharks power play had been just 1-for-25 on the road in its last seven games, but finished Friday 2-for-5.

Montreal was 0-for-3 on the power play.

In goal

Jones made 26 saves, and has won all three games on the road trip, the previous two wins coming in a shootout. He’s 16-10-1 on the year, and 5-1-0 in his career against Montreal.

Price took just his second loss in regulation at home this season (13-2-2), and was pulled for the first time since Oct. 13, 2014, according to the Journal de Montreal. He’s just 2-6-1 in his career against San Jose.

Montoya stopped all five shots he saw.


Logan Couture, who didn’t finish Wednesday’s game after getting cross-checked in the head by Mike Hoffman, was fine to play. Earlier in the day, Hoffman was issued a two-game suspension for the play, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic was fined $5,000 for spearing Erik Karlsson in the same game.

Donskoi returned to the lineup after he was a healthy scratch in Ottawa on Wednesday, and tallied a pair of assists.

Joel Ward, who had played in all 30 games with two goals and nine points, was a healthy scratch for the first time.

Montreal remained without top line center Alex Galchenyuk, who will miss the next five-to-seven weeks with a knee injury.

Up next

The Sharks will conclude their road trip in Chicago against the Blackhawks, who led the NHL with 44 points (20-8-4) as of Friday. On Nov. 23 at SAP Center, San Jose beat Chicago, 2-1.

Calgary visits the Shark Tank on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP


With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP

As the season winds down, whispers surrounding players’ awards candidacies are turning into full-blown conversations. None are more interesting than those surrounding the Hart Trophy, awarded to “the player judged to be the most valuable to his team,” according to the NHL’s criteria.

The Sharks have already seen their fair share of MVP candidates since the trade deadline, and will encounter yet another one on Tuesday when Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils stop by SAP Center. They’ll see a couple more beyond Hall over the next three weeks, too.

Who do we think has the best case? With no disrespect meant to Nikita Kucherov or Anze Kopitar, Hart Trophy candidates that the Sharks won’t play before the playoffs, we’ll look at the ones the Sharks have played since the deadline or will play before the end of the regular season.

The Dark Horses
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: The demise of the ‘Great Eight’ was greatly exaggerated. In his 13th NHL season, the 32-year-old is tied for the league lead in goals (43), 11th in points (78), and has led a depleted Capitals roster to the precipice of a third-straight division title. That probably won’t be enough to earn his fourth Hart Trophy, but this is undoubtedly one of Ovi’s best seasons.

Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild: Staal was a pleasant surprise when he scored 65 points last year, but has been even better this season. He’s tied for fourth in the in goals (39), tied for fifth in even strength goals (26), tied for 19th in points (71), and leading his team in each category as a 33-year-old. The Wild are a near-lock for the postseason at this point, and a resurgent Staal deserves much of the credit.

The Frontrunners
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: McDavid’s candidacy comes down to where you fall on the “non-playoff players winning MVP” debate, but his value to the lottery-bound Oilers cannot be denied. Edmonton is 28-19-3 when he’s scored a point, and 3-17-2 when he hasn’t.

The former is about a 97-point pace in the standings over an 82-game season, while the latter is about a 30-point pace. In other words, the Oilers are basically a playoff team when McDavid scores, and historically bad when he doesn’t.

We’re sympathetic to questions about how valuable a player can be when his team will finish so far out of the postseason. However, imagining how much worse the poorly-constructed Oilers would be without him makes him a worthy candidate alone.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: The Colorado Avalanche were 31 points worse than the league’s second-worst team last season, and finished 46 points out of the postseason. A full offseason with second-year coach Jared Bednar, as well as some under-the-radar acquisitions have helped the Avalanche’s remarkable turnaround into a Wild Card team, but Nathan MacKinnon is undoubtedly the catalyst.

The former No. 1 pick has put it all together this season, and is tied-for-second in points (89) with McDavid, despite playing eight fewer games. His 1.39 points per game are the most in the league, as are his 3.49 points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick (minimum 500 minutes played).

The Avalanche is the league’s fifth-worst five-on-five puck possession team overall (47.42 percent corsi-for), but are right around league-average with MacKinnon on the ice (50.96 percent). He’d be a very worthy Hart Trophy winner, and likely would be the clear-cut frontrunner if not for the man leading the Devils into SAP Center on Tuesday.

The Favorite
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils: McDavid is not the only No. 1 pick the Oilers drafted that’s in the MVP conversation, but he’s the only one still on their roster. The other is Taylor Hall, who has the best Hart Trophy case in our eyes.

Hall strikes the sweet spot between McDavid’s case, as a superstar with little support around him, and MacKinnon’s, as an emergent force leading a resurgence, and he has a 26-game point streak to his name. He sits outside the top 10 in points (77), goals (31), and assists (46), but has scored points at a higher rate per game (1.15) than all but six qualifying players.

He also doesn’t have Mikko Rantanen  or Leon Draisaitl skating alongside him as MacKinnon and McDavid do, nor does he have a supporting cast like Kucherov and Kopitar. Of all the players the Sharks have and will face down the stretch, Hall’s been the player most valuable to his team this season.

After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go


After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go

The Sharks’ playoff outlook is a lot rosier after winning all four of their games last week. They are now four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings in the second Wild Card spot, and three points up the Anaheim Ducks, who are third place in the Pacific Division.

Those are four-point and three-point improvements, respectively, over those same spots last week. The Sharks even picked up ground on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, and are eight points back of the Pacific’s leaders, with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

That’s not quite close enough to warrant inclusion in a look at the playoff picture headed into the week, but could be next week if San Jose continues to make up ground. Otherwise, it’s still worth examining where the Sharks stand in regards to the Pacific and the Wild Card.

San Jose Sharks (Second in the Pacific, 89 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket:  3/20 vs New Jersey, 3/22 vs Vegas, 3/24 vs Calgary

Outlook: Over the next two weeks, the schedule really starts to become difficult. San Jose has only two games remaining against teams on the outside looking in, and is just 2-6-2 in its last 10 against teams currently in a playoff spot. If that trend continues, the newfound breathing room could start to disappear rather quickly.

Anaheim Ducks (Third in the Pacific, 86 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/21 at Calgary, 3/23 at Winnipeg, 3/25 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Ducks have now won three in a row, including next Sunday against the red-hot New Jersey Devils. They’ll play four of their final five road games in the next nine days, and all but one of their opponents is not in playoff position. Anaheim’s just 15-14-7 away from the Honda Center, though. With the fewest games remaining of any playoff team, the Ducks will help to move up any further.

Colorado Avalanche (First Wild Card, 86 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/20 at Chicago, 3/22 vs Los Angeles, 3/24 vs Vegas

Outlook: Give it up for surefire Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, winners of three of four last week. Other than a slip-up on the second night of a back-to-back in Nashville, Colorado was outright dominant, outscoring opponents 16-7. A midweek matchup against Los Angeles could create some Wild Card separation.

Los Angeles Kings (Second Wild Card, 84 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/19 at Minnesota, 3/20 at Winnipeg, 3/22 at Colorado, 3/24 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Kings picked up points in three of four, including on both nights of a back-to-back. Their schedule really picks up this week, as they’ll face three playoff-bound teams from the Central on the road. The struggling Stars remain on their heels, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Dallas Stars (Ninth in the West, 84 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/20 at Washington, 3/23 vs Boston. 3/25 vs Vancouver

Outlook: Is Dallas in the middle of a Lone Star letdown? We wrote last week that a difficult schedule could create openings for the teams chasing them and boy, did it ever. The Stars went 0-2-2 on the week, and picked up just one point against the lottery-bound Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. They’ll surely relish a matchup against the Canucks in six days, as it’s their only remaining game against a non-playoff team.

St. Louis Blues (10th in the West, 83 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/21 vs Boston, 3/23 vs Vancouver, 3/24 at Columbus

Outlook: For the second straight season, it’s not quite time to stick a fork in the St. Louis Blues. Yes, they are once again in the playoff hunt after trading one of their best players at the trade deadline, and won three out of four to move with in a point of the final Wild Card spot. The Blues have now won four of five, and still have an uphill climb ahead. After last season, is it ever safe to rule them out?

The Departed: Calgary Flames (11th in the West, 80 points)

This section is reserved for teams that have fallen out of the playoff picture since our last look at the playoff picture, and the Calgary Flames have earned(?) the inaugural (dis)honor. The Flames failed to keep the door to the playoffs ajar thanks to a 7-4 loss to the Sharks on Friday, and it slammed shut after a 4-0 loss in Sin City on Sunday. They have to jump three teams and cover four points of ground to earn a Wild Card spot. The latest stretch stings, but the Flames will likely look on a four-game, post-trade deadline losing streak as when their playoff hopes burned out.