SAN JOSE – The Sharks continued to pad their Pacific Division lead with another win over a weak Vancouver club on Thursday night at SAP Center, 3-1. They have won all three games coming out of the bye week, setting up what should be an exciting tilt on Sunday in St. Paul against the conference-leading Wild.
In the meantime, here are our three takeaways from the victory against the Canucks…
1 – Defensive structure returns
Although they were still gaining points in the standings, the Sharks were giving up more goals than usual before the bye week. In one five-game stretch from Feb. 7-15, San Jose surrendered 20 goals (two of which were in overtime). In their last three games since getting some rest, though, the Sharks have given up just three goals in two wins over the Canucks and another against Toronto.
That was a focus before facing a speedy upstart Maple Leafs team on Tuesday, according to Joe Pavelski. They were successful that night, and it continued into Thursday.
“When we played Toronto the other night, that was one of the talks, was stay patient,” said the captain. “We’re going to have to defend, we’ll get our chances. They’re a team that can fly around, and if we defend, well we’ll be alright. [That] kind of led over into tonight, and [Aaron Dell] made some saves when he had to.”
The Sharks were on their heels early in the game, eventually giving up the first goal on the power play, but settled in after that and gave up just 18 shots.
“They've got a lot of pride over there and some great players still and a lot of young guys that are trying to prove themselves,” Pete DeBoer said. “We knew it would be a tough game. I thought we fought it a little bit in the first period, but got better as the game went on."
2 – Dell steady, as usual
It’s fair to wonder if Dell was a little more nervous than usual in his first start since becoming the official backup for the rest of the season. If he was, it didn’t show. In fact, seeing so few shots made it one of those games that are “harder ones to play,” he said.
We mentioned a few times yesterday, both in this space and on television, about how Dell’s workload is about to increase. Logan Couture spoke after the game about how the team is just fine with that likelihood.
They like Dell, and they like competing for him.
“I think all the guys are [excited for him],” Couture said. “When you’re a backup goalie you’re probably the hardest working guy on the team. You’re out there every morning, you don’t take the optional [skates] off, on the back-to-backs you’re there. You’re getting on the bus early in the morning on the road. Extra drills after practice. Every backup goalie that we have, you always pull for him and you want him to do well.
“He’s an easy-going guy. He’s an easy guy to like, as well. We’re pulling for him, he’s played great for us all year.”
3 – Roster decisions loom
Jannik Hansen has yet to arrive, and may not even be available until the Sharks host the Capitals next Thursday, as he sorts out his immigration paperwork. Joonas Donskoi is also nearing a return from his upper body injury. Those two additions mean there are going to be some tough decisions for DeBoer on who to play and who to sit.
Marcus Sorensen is making his case to stick around, with his second straight impressive performance and his first career NHL goal. Perhaps Mikkel Boedker is feeling a little more heat, too, as he’s been much more effective since he was benched for the third period against Boston in the final game before the bye week. Boedker was strong again, scoring a goal and skating on what DeBoer indicated was the Sharks’ best line of the night.
As anyone on the coaching staff would tell you, being healthy and deep is a great problem to have this time of year.