SAN JOSE – It was the perfect way to resume their schedule after the All-Star break, as the Sharks put forth a complete effort in a 3-1 win over Chicago on Tuesday night at SAP Center. Here’s what we’re taking away from the win, which vaulted San Jose back into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
1 – Second line success
Although the Sharks’ only goal before Tomas Hertl’s late score was on the power play, San Jose was the better five-on-five team for most of the night. They finished with a 26-18 edge in even strength shots, and were finally rewarded on the late game-winner.
All four lines were effective, but one in particular stood out to coach Pete DeBoer.
“I liked all four of our lines all game. I thought actually [Mikkel] Boedker, [Patrick] Marleau and [Logan] Couture really were about as dominant as I've seen them as a line,” said the coach.
Marleau said: “Everyone brings something. The speed Boedker has, he's winning battles, and Cooch is a speedy player and a good playmaker. So things are going good. It's something we can build off of."
We’ve mentioned this before, but it took four goals from Marleau in the third period against Colorado on Jan. 23 for DeBoer to reunite him and Couture on a line to start a game the next night in Winnipeg. They’ve been dynamic ever since.
What took so long?
“We were just trying to find some different things,” DeBoer said. “I think having Tommy Hertl out was tough. We were looking for different combinations. I like the look of that line right now."
The Sharks saved their best period for last. Perhaps they knew that Chicago had been struggling late in games lately, having blown third period leads in each of its last two games, but San Jose prevented the Blackhawks from getting any dangerous looks in what was a 1-1 game at the time.
Chicago had just one shot over the final 11 minutes and five seconds – and that one came with just two ticks left on the lock and its fate already decided.
“I thought we were really strong five-on-five, especially in the third period,” Martin Jones said. “Last 10 minutes, I’m not sure they had a scoring chance.”
2 – Hertl getting his legs under him
After missing 32 in a row, Hertl said he was “sad” the team lost last Thursday, when his first game back was also the end of a six-game winning streak.
He feels himself getting stronger now two games into his return.
“I think it’s coming better,” he said. “First period was I think pretty good again, a lot of chances. Second I [had] a couple chances, too. … O-zone can be better, and strong around the net, but the game is coming. Every game [is] better and better. I [felt] pretty good this game.”
DeBoer said: "He gets better every night. We missed him. He was out for a long time. I thought Game 1 he was real good in the first, and then faded a little bit. I thought tonight he carried it for the whole 60 minutes, and I still think he's going to get better."
3 – Up-tempo pace
The fans in attendance got their money’s worth in this one as the pace was noticeably higher than in games before the break, when just about every NHL team was grinding through the NHL’s preposterous condensed schedule.
“It's amazing when you give both teams a couple days off and get them out there fresh in a big-game situation, how good the hockey is,” DeBoer said.
While it’s still up in the air whether the league will be in the Olympics next season, this game should serve as a prime example of why skipping them is a good idea for the league. Just my opinion here, but it’s time for everyone involved with the sport to be little more concerned with the NHL product and less concerned with things like the Olympics, World Cup, and the ludicrous bye week.