Game of Firsts Keeps the Sharks on Top

By Mary Walsh

OTTAWA- Sunday, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2 with goaltender Alex Stalock making his first NHL start. Stalock had played in 2 NHL games before, but always in relief. James Sheppard and Andrew Desjardins also scored their first goals of the season, bringing the number of 2013-14 Sharks with goals to 16. The Sharks are now 10-1-1 this season.

After the game, Stalock spoke on CSNCA‘s television broadcast:

Being there before, going in in relief is a little bit easier, because you don’t have all day to think of it. But you’re thinking about it all night– I found out yesterday– and thinking about it all day today. But it was nice to have a five o’clock game, a quick turnaround, didn’t have much time to think, just go and play.

Stalock stopped 38 of 40 shots from the Senators. The Sharks had not allowed more than 31 shots in a game before Sunday. The Senators’ quick, persistent forecheck was one reason they had so many shots. The Sharks’ energy level was inconsistent, almost sluggish at times. That could be because Sunday’s game followed a very quick turnaround.

The Sharks’ game in Montreal had ended a mere 17 hours earlier. Only two San Jose players had not played the night before: Stalock and forward Mike Brown. Other changes to the lineup included moving James Sheppard to the top line with Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl. Sheppard had been a healthy scratch two games earlier. Matt Nieto was out, though he had been expected to play. After the game started, news came that he was not a healthy scratch.

The Sharks didn’t look especially weary to start the game. Tomas Hertl reminded everyone that he bears watching when he elluded the Senators defense and slid the puck by Craig Anderson just 1:16 into the game. Andrew Desjardins followed at 6:35 with a quick, hard backhander that surprised everyone. Desjardins had to look over his shoulder to follow his shot, since his back was to the net. That gave the Sharks a two goal lead.

The Sharks played with that lead for just over four minutes. At 11:07 of the period, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson cut the lead in half with a shot from the point, while Cory Conacher screened Stalock.

With under three minutes to go in the period, San Jose’s Mike Brown was called for interference on Kyle Turris. With Brown in the box, Logan Couture initiated a short-handed rush off a pass from Tommy Wingels. Couture’s shot was stopped, but Anderson went down to stop Couture’s shot. Before he could recover, Wingels pounced on the puck for a shorthanded goal.

It was during the second period that the Sharks looked weary. With very little zone time, they still managed 11 shots, but the Senators outskated them at every turn. Karlsson’s first period goal served as a model for the Senators’ second goal, the only one scored in the second period. Near the midpoint of the period, with traffic buzzing in front of Stalock, Marc Methot‘s slapshot from the blue line brought the Senators back within one.

The Sharks came out refreshed for the third period. It took Joe Thornton under 90 seconds to get behind the goal line with the puck. James Sheppard, just arrived in front of the net, took Thornton’s pass and put the Sharks back up by two.

A little over six minutes later, Justin Braun and Joe Pavelski executed a play that should show up on the week’s highlights. Tommy Wingels picked up a mishandled puck from Senators defenseman Jared Cowen, carried it out of the Sharks’ zone and passed it to Pavelski who was just crossing the Senators’ blue line. Pavelski sent the puck to Justin Braun, who entered the zone at a good clip. Each player had pressure to contend with. The Sharks’ defenseman continued almost to the corner, drawing defense away from Pavelski and Anderson far out and to the side of the net. Anderson slowed Braun’s shot but it got by, sitting behind the goalie for a beat before Pavelski came flying in to put it home. Pavelski finished by crashing into the goal post. The goal was reviewed in case it had gone off of his skate. The goal held up as Pavelski had his stick well in position on the way in.

Each team had 3 power plays in the game, neither scored on any of those. The Sharks return to California tonight, finishing up their road trip on Wednesday, against the Kings in Los Angeles.

Larry Levitt on Sharks and Bulls hockey

 by Larry Levitt

DALY CITY–The San Jose Sharks who opened up their first three games at SAP Arena and won all three there’s nothing like home cooking that makes a big difference. The team is well rounded they have strength throughout all four lines now. The fourth line is a little weaker than what I would have expected but surprisingly their coming through really strong probably the biggest surprise obviously is just analyzing the guys individually it looks like Joe Pavelski has taken his game to another level too.

Pavelski is one of those players that’s out on the ice a lot and does a lot of the little things that doesn’t get noticed by most people and it’s really exciting to see him have a good year. For Tomas Hertl scoring four goals on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers he doesn’t speak much English so maybe when the fans are yelling at him he doesn’t get too excited and doesn’t realized what he’s done or what he hasn’t done and he’s a 19 year old rookie.

Hertl is exciting the best part he puts the fun back into the game he’s always smiling and on the other hand you have to feel sorry for the Rangers they were playing on back to back nights coming from Los Angeles where they played the Kings the night before and it was a tough game. They really didn’t have their legs and were always slow to the puck and there have never been more pucks that have bounced the right way than that night.

Everytime the puck went off something it went right to a Shark and Joe Thornton got a lucky bounce it was a clearing pass it went off the end of a stick that was laying on the ice that was broken and went right to Thornton so he was able to pass it right up to Hertl and there was a goal. Every bounce seemed to go right for the Sharks that night to a Shark player.

The Rangers goalie Hendrick Lundquist was pulled from the game and sometimes when you pull the goalie to make a statement to your team because they’re not playing well and sometimes you pull the goalie because he’s not playing well. It was a combination of both but the team didn’t really support him at the beginning the Rangers did get the first goal of the game but it was on a five on three power play but after that they really didn’t support him. They were really slow to the puck and when they were shooting it and getting the puck they were trying to knock it off the boards and it would bounce right to the Sharks players.

The Sharks win that one 9-2 and played the Canucks on Thursday night and continue their winning streak now at 4-0 after winning their first road game in Vancouver.

San Francisco Bulls update: Bulls head coach Pat Curcio is quite a head coach and he’s really helped a lot of players and one of the players actually made it to the NHL playing for Toronto they see that Curcio has a lot of heart he’s put a lot into the team and therefore their going to try and benefit from that and make their career better for that reason.

The Bulls are an exciting club to watch in their first year they did very well they made the playoffs their expectations were set any lower. The thing is just keep that exciting brand of hockey going and keep it out in the neighborhood that their playing well and playing hard and the people who are really enjoying the sport will come watch them.

The longest part of travel for the Bulls are when they make their long trek to Alaska to play the Aces which they have on tap for the first week in April. The Bulls will miss the freezing ice and snow and the beginning of April will work for them. The players love to play the sport it’s just a matter of the travel and once your in the ice rink and skating it’s all just a game.

As far as the travel when your in a minor league set up like the ECHL your going to have the buses your going to have the long drives not as much luxury but that’s part of paying your dues to get in the Big Boy league.

The Bulls have a long eight game road trip to open up the season with the rodeo coming to the Cow Palace which takes precedence so they’ll melt the ice after these two pre season games at the Cow Palace. The Bulls will go on the road and sometimes being on the road forces a team together more and maybe be more solid of team players. There’s no where to hide when your own the road. Your so close to each other and that might be a benefit if they play their cards right they make it a benefit.

Larry Levitt does weekly commentary on San Francisco Bulls and San Jose Sharks hockey for Sportstalk Radio