“Hits and Misses” for Wild at Sharks 3/17/11
Jamal Mayers – “Jammer” scored his third goal of the season, and first since January 3rd, at 11:29 of the first period to give the Sharks an early 1-0 lead. The play developed in the Sharks own zone where Sharks goalie Antti Niemi played the puck from behind the net and up the boards to Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell on the strong side. Mitchell got the puck over to line-mate Joe Pavelski, who skated with his head up and fired a pass up the middle of the neutral zone in the slot to Mayers, who anticipated the pass, split two Wild defensemen and beat Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on the breakaway with a backhanded shot. With the goal, Mayers is two points shy of 200 career NHL points and now has three career goals against the Wild in 33 career games.
Logan Couture – “Calder” Couture scored his 27th goal of the season at 11:33 of the second period to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Couture carried the puck into the Wild zone on the right side and fired a backhand shot on net from the end-board red-line. The puck deflected off of Wild forward John Madden‘s stick, went over Backstrom’s head, hit under the crossbar and bounced into the net. Couture now trails New York Islanders Michael Grabner by one goal for the NHL rookie lead and with 48 points, Couture is just two points behind Carolina Hurricanes Jeff Skinner for the overall rookie scoring lead.
Patrick Marleau – Marleau scored his 28th goal of the season at 5:00 of the third period with the Sharks on a Power Play, which held up as the game-winner. Off a failed clear attempt by the Wild, Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi got the puck over to Pavelski, who found Marleau in the slot between the face-off circles. With the puck on his stick, Marleau fired a shot from in close that Backstrom stopped but the rebound deflected off the leg of a Wild defender and went into the net. The goal was Marleau’s 12th career goal in 40 career games against the Wild.
Dan Boyle – Even though Boyle didn’t have a point tonight, he gets a “hit” for showing his toughness, durability and flexibility after taking a hard fall in the third period and having his body bend in a totally unnatural manner. Every San Jose Sharks fan held their collective breath and feared the worst as Boyle slammed his fists down on the ice in frustration. Some Sharks fans exhaled slightly when the game came back from commercial and Boyle was skating off the ice on his own power back to the Sharks locker-room. Every Sharks fan completely exhaled when Boyle came back onto the Sharks bench seconds later and motioned he was fine. I don’t even want to begin to think of how bad it would have been for the Sharks had Boyle suffered a season ending injury.
Joe Pavelski – The “Big Pavelski” may not have scored but he did have two assists for a two point night, giving him 40 assists for the season and in his last three games, Pavelski has one goal and seven assists.
Antti Niemi – Niemi made his 27th consecutive start in net for the Sharks and once again, Niemi was there to bail the Sharks out of trouble, especially in the game’s final minute as the Wild pulled Backstrom for an extra skater. Niemi stood tall and on his head, stopping 28-out-of-30 shots, and with his stellar play, Niemi has made it almost impossible for Sharks coach Todd McLellan to rest him so backup goalie Antero Niittymaki can get back on the ice for a start.
Kyle Wellwood/Joe Pavelski/Torrey Mitchell – Once again, this trio was the best Sharks line of the night. What this trio lacks in size, they make up for it with hard work and determination. Coach McLellan has found magic with this line as the trio has been responsible for generating a plethora of the Sharks scoring chances over the last several games.
Sharks Team – Depending on one’s perspective, the Sharks were either lucky to win tonight or found a way to win (I still haven’t decided yet). The Sharks tied a season high with 50-shots on net and with the win, remain in first place of the Pacific Division with 90 points, three ahead of the second place Phoenix Coyotes (who also won tonight) and trail the Detroit Red Wings by four points for the second overall seed in the Western Conference.
Power Play – Even though the Sharks did score a Power Play goal, the Sharks finished the night 1-for-5 with the man advantage, which isn’t something to brag about. Even worse, the Power Play unit surrendered a Short-Handed goal to Madden at 14:53 of the first period that tied the game at 1-1. With the Sharks on their first Power Play of the game, Madden pushed the puck into the Sharks zone and did not give up on the play. As a result of Madden’s relentless pursuit of the puck, Madden was able to beat Niemi with a shot from in close as three Sharks (Boyle, Couture and Ian White) were caught looking at the puck instead of playing the body.
Sharks Team – While its a “hit” the Sharks won and showed their resiliency, it has to be considered a “miss” that the Sharks blew two leads to a Wild team that are now six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Sharks cannot make it a habit of surrendering leads, especially to good teams once the playoffs start because those teams will seize the momentum so fast that it will make one’s head spin. In addition, this was a “Jekyll and Hyde” night for the Sharks as there were stretches of play where the Sharks dominated the Wild and there were stretches of play where the Sharks couldn’t make a simple breakout pass out of their own zone.