It was about darn time the Sharks played an exciting game.
After four straight games where they never seemed to have much of a chance, San Jose engaged in an entertaining give-and-go with the Blackhawks in Patrick Marleau's heavily-anticipated return to the Sharks. With multiple players elevating their game, San Jose finally got in the win column with a 5-4 victory.
Here are three takeaways from Thursday night's game in Chicago:
Marleau contributed right off the bat
The Sharks brought Marleau back to help out on offense, and the 40-year-old winger didn't disappoint. Marleau scored a power-play goal at the end of the first period and then scored a big goal late in the second -- both of which tied the score. Not bad for a player who missed the preseason and first four games of the regular season.
While one player alone doesn't change the complexion of an entire team, Marleau's return has already added some much-needed depth to San Jose's forward attack. When the Sharks get Marcus Sorensen back healthy, the offense should look much more competitive.
On that subject …
The forecheck was a difference-maker
Through the first four games of the season, San Jose’s offense wasn’t taking enough chances. As Thursday’s game went on, however, a more tenacious forecheck began to take over, resulting in better chances against goaltender Corey Crawford. Despite the Blackhawks taking four separate leads, the Sharks always found a way to stay in the game.
Additionally, several players did a better job of posting up in the crease in an attempt to make life tougher on Crawford. Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane were particularly good at this, as was their new linemate Barclay Goodrow -- who scored the game-winning goal for San Jose while skating right up to the front of the net.
If more Sharks’ skaters get in those dangerous areas, it will continue to give the offense a boost.
On a less positive note …
The defense still is making too many mistakes
You really have to give Sharks goalie Aaron Dell credit. If it hadn't been for him, Chicago might've scored eight goals on the evening. Dell had a few huge saves, especially on breakaways that San Jose's defense had trouble catching up to. But speedy breaks weren't the only thing helping the Blackhawks' offense along. On Chicago's first goal, the Sharks had numerous bodies in front of their own net and the Blackhawks' Dominik Kubalik still found room to bury his first NHL goal.
While San Jose's game improved considerably as the game wore on, the defense still isn't communicating properly and, consequently, the puck is winding up in the back of the Sharks' net too often. The players have been talking about needing to tighten up the defense since the preseason. So far, that's still a work in progress.