By Mary Walsh
STOCKTON, CA– No Daniil Tarasov at the Stockton preseason game between the San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks. For me, that simplified the list of players likely to make the Sharks NHL roster at the end of camp. The game re-complicated it. Nikolay Goldobin and Barclay Goodrow looked good enough to make anyone think twice. The Sharks won 5-2, and outshot the Canucks by an embarrassing margin to boot.
In the first four minutes of the Stockton game, the Sharks got credit for three shots to none for the Vancouver squad. In goal for San Jose was Troy Grosenick, with Jakob Markstrom at the other end for the Canucks. After nine minutes, the shots were 8 to 1 for the Sharks. By the end of the period, it had stretched even more to 16-5 Sharks. Astonishing, really, that even prospects in the preseason can so accurately follow the Sharks’ classic MO: outshoot the opposition without much to show for it.
That did not last, that part where they had nothing to show for it.
Of the players to watch in Stockton, I had Tarasov near the top of the list for forwards, and his absence was disappointing. The game was a chance to get a better look at Nikolay Goldobin, the Sharks’ first round pick from this summer’s draft. With such a plethora of forwards competing for a spot, some with NHL experience, others with a lot of pro time in the minor leagues, the odds that a rookie drafted just this summer would make it were slim. Still, he played so well with Goodrow that I had to rethink. His skillset could be something the team needs right now. Goodrow and Goldobin stood out even before they started scoring: they found each other with passes, they knew when to help the other out. And then there were the two goals they scored- those were pretty showy too.
The first period ended scoreless, but things really picked up in the second. A too many men penalty from the Canucks put the Sharks on their second power play of the game. It took the top line a heartbeat or two after puck drop to take the lead. Joe Thornton skated across in front of the net, with Hertl trailing behind in case needed. Joe Pavelski got the puck to him without much trouble and Thornton put it in.
Nick Bonino took a slashing penalty at 9:30 of the second period. Goodrow and Goldobin were out there to start the power play and they made the best of their communication skills. Goodrow scored off a neat pass from Goldobin. He got the puck from Mueller, a nice showing from the Sharks most recent first round picks.
The Sharks got yet another power play on a delay of game (puck over the glass by Vancouver’s Bobby Sanguinetti.) With so much practice, it seemed inevitable that the Canucks would improve on their penalty kill. They did. They killed that one, but during the power play Marc-Edouard Vlasic demonstrated one of those new rule changes: he dove for a puck and reached it, while a Canuck was close by. The Canuck did not take advantage of the chance to skate into Vlasic’s outstretched stick and trip over it so no penalty was called. Nevertheless, that call is going to be hard to avoid.
Justin Braun took the Sharks’ first penalty of the game, holding at 9:30 of the second. Twenty seconds later, Vlasic joined him in the box for delay of game. That left 51, 67 and 10 to start the five on three. They were quickly replaced, as they cleared the puck a couple of times. 80, 67, 41 had the longest shift. The penalty killers did a very good job to keep the Canucks off the board in such a long five on three.
With under two minutes left in the period, Goldobin added a goal to his tally with a lovely wrap-around, preceded by some misdirection on the other side of the net. He squeezed the puck just between Markstrom and the post, possibly under the goalie’s skate blade. However it got through, it was snug. It was Goodrow, of course, who got the puck to him.
A quick check of the roster stats told me that Goldobin and Goodrow did not play on the same team last season.
The Sharks went up 4-0 with Pavelski’s first of the preseason, from Eriah Hayes & Dylan DeMelo at 4:17 of third.
The Canucks finally scored about nine minutes into the third period. Nick Bonino got the puck past Grosenik, and past DeMelo and Abeltshauser.
The Sharks got that back with a goal from Thornton, assisted by Dylan DeMelo.
Unfortunately, DeMelo and Abeltshauser were there again when the Canucks went the other way and scored a second goal for the Canucks. This one was scored by Niklas Jensen.
Final score, 5-2 Sharks. The final shot count was listed as 34-12.
John Scott acquitted himself well enough when he had a chance to move the puck, but he could be skated around by the quicker Canucks without much difficulty. A hard hit by Scott on Cedarholm drew the ire of Tom Sestito, who took a 10 minute misconduct for instigating a fight with Scott.
Braun and Mueller skated together quite a bit. The only thing I would fault Mueller on in Tuesday’s game is that he was a little tentative.
With the other Sharks squad falling 4-2 in Vancouver, it seems that the 6,810 fans in the Stockton audience were the winners of the night. While a full-sized NHL arena can be hard to fill for a preseason game, the Stockton arena was just right. It gave the players an enthusiastic audience up close, and the audience got to watch the game in a more cozy setting with the arena mostly full. Stockton Arena is a very pleasant venue, and bringing the Sharks’ preseason squad there was a brilliant idea. It begs the question: will the Sharks renew their old affiliation with the Thunder? As of now, San Jose has no ECHL affiliate. Stockton has an NHL affiliate (NY Islanders) but many ECHL clubs are having to double up since the league contracted recently.