Nobody is planning the parade route in downtown San Jose just yet, but the Sharks started their 31st season of hockey with a bang Saturday night.
Here are some of my takeaways from San Jose's season-opening 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets at SAP Center.
That was the exact kind of game the Sharks lost last year and the year before. The Sharks trailed by two within the first 21 minutes, and the outcome was looking bleak. Not to say they were playing poorly, but they clearly weren’t the better team. And recently, that's usually when things would further unravel.
However, this time, the Sharks turned the tide with statement moments: Andrew Cogliano's short-handed goal to get them on the board, and a response fight that somewhat felt like a precursor to the next three San Jose goals.
Last year, the Sharks didn't record their first fighting major until 20 games in. Jake Middleton didn't even get halfway through Saturday's game before he squared up with Logan Stanley after Rudolfs Balcers absorbed an unfavorable hit. Dropping the gloves isn't necessarily tied to just one situation, but the fact that the Sharks of old let so many things go could have been a bigger-picture indication of their allegiance to one another.
During preseason games, it was widely observed and noted: This team carried a little more confidence and cohesion as a group, and that already seemed to be on display in the season opener.
The youthful contributions were hard to miss. From Jasper Weatherby's first NHL goal to William Eklund's first NHL assist, to Jonathan Dahlen almost getting one past Connor Hellebuyck's glove, it was rewarding to see San Jose's youthful core experience instant success.
It still will be a long season and playing the long game 81 more times for all the rookies in teal, but an early dose of confidence could go a long way toward how they establish themselves in the NHL. Trusting young players who did not instantly or regularly provide predictable results was a Sharks area of struggle in recent years.
The Sharks won two key battles they regularly lost last season: faceoffs and the power play. San Jose won a decisive 59 percent of draws, including a 6-of-7 effort by Tomas Hertl and 13 of 21 won by Logan Couture. Those marks are what the Sharks would like to see more of consistently from their top two centermen.
In addition, the Sharks scored two power-play goals and created chances and momentum almost every time they jumped on the man advantage. It was a stark contrast from the Sharks of last season, who finished 29th in the NHL on the power play.
Adin Hill made just his 42nd NHL start, and must have felt some emotions early. After a full 60 minutes, Hill's effort gave the Sharks every opportunity to win the game. It wasn't until 6:31 left in the game when Winnipeg got their third and final marker of the night, meaning that for most of the battle, Hill had held the Jets to that famous "two or fewer" plateau, which usually determines a Sharks outcome.
Hill also impressively fended off the Jets during the final minutes when they pulled Hellebuyck and gained an extra attacker.
Overall, it might not be a game that is highlighted on the new Sharks goalie's résumé, but all things considered, with a new team in a new situation, it definitely was a good place to start.