Welcome to Last Word on Sports new weekly San Jose Sharks Summary. Each week we will take a look at games, roster moves, injury notes and anything else you need to start your week off with a recap of all things Sharks.
Sharks Summary: Two Shutouts and a Stinker
San Jose played well overall in the Game 1 loss that was discussed last week before Tuesday’s Game 2 match-up against the St. Louis Blues. No team lucks their way into the Western Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but few would have predicted what would happen in this week’s games. The Sharks defense had been crucial in keeping Game 1 close but would raise their game to another level again in consecutive shutout victories.
Game 2 started well for the Sharks, and they never looked back. San Jose’s fourth line scored just 2:07 into the first period, when a Tommy Wingels wrist shot from between the face-off dots, beat St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott. The Sharks would get power-play goals from Norris Trophy candidate (and Last Word On Sports projected winner) Brent Burns in the second and third periods before Dainius Zubrus would seal the victory with an empty-net goal. Martin Jones was very sharp in the 24-save shutout, but the Sharks real win was in shot attempts which they dominated. Only four Blues skaters recorded positive on-ice Corsi differentials.
Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock juggled his lines ahead of Game 3, inserting talented youngsters Dimitri Jaskin and Magnus Paajarvi taking the place of Steve Ott and Scottie Upshall. The talent infusion at the bottom of the line-up created match-up issues for the Sharks and tilted the balance in the game. The Blues were able to turn the possession tables entirely on the Sharks and only Paul Martin, Brent Burns, and Joe Thornton escaped the game with a positive Corsi differential. Despite the Blues dominance by nearly every advanced statistic, Martin Jones turned in perhaps his finest performance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs thus far. Jones stopped five shots high-danger shots and 22 shots overall for a second consecutive shutout to steal a win for San Jose.
Hitchcock the next day announced that Jake Allen, who came in relief of Elliott after the Sharks third goal in Game 3, would be the Game 4 starter.
Hitchcock: "Ells has run quite a distance here. We just feel like Jake's a guy that can help us change the momentum of the series."
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 21, 2016
The move in goal was a curious one at first, but the result was excellent for the Blues. The Sharks came out beyond flat defensively for the first two periods, with numerous missteps and flat out poor play in front of their net. For how good the Sharks were in the series first three games in front of Marin Jones, they were equally disheveled in Game 4. The Blues were up 4-0 before the Sharks finally woke up early in the third period with a goal by captain Joe Pavelski, the Sharks would fight back and make it interesting on goals by Melker Karlsson and Chris Tierney but ultimately would fall 6-3.
Despite the seemingly lopsided score, statistically, the Sharks played well. After being outplayed in Game 3 in terms of Corsi-for events, the Sharks ended the game with 17 more shot attempts than the Blues. Additionally, all three San Jose goals came with-in three yards of the Blues net, again showing the ability to get in behind the St. Louis defense and the importance of high-danger chances. Another bright spot: San Jose again kept Vladimir Tarasenko off the score sheet after posting 13 points in the first two rounds. Through four games the uber-talented Russian winger has zero points, 11 shots on goal and a +/- rating of -2.
While that looks good on paper, the other end of the ice was the opposite. All five goals the Blues put past a Sharks netminder came within 18 feet of the goal. The Sharks had been playing well in front of their net overall this postseason, but breakdowns in Game 4 were easily identifiable as the issue. The defensive zone issues, more than any changes made by the Blues, where the reason for the poor result. The Sharks have shown they are more than capable of handling the traffic in front of their net and will need to get back to this staple of their defensive play to get back on track in Game 5. With the series now tied 2-2, the Sharks will need to limit mistakes to win the now best-of-three Western Conference Final.
Nieto Remains Out
Forward Matt Nieto was injured mid-way through the first period forcing the Sharks to juggle their lines. Nieto has not played in any of this week’s games against the Blues but is expected to be ready at some point in the series for head coach Peter DeBoer.
Tim Heed Signed
The Sharks once again went to the Swedish Hockey League well and signed 6’, 200-pound defenseman Tim Heed to a one-year, $775,000 contract according to GeneralFanager.com. Heed, 25, is a converted forward with over 240 games of SHL regular season and playoff experience. As a former forward his offensive instincts are above average and is a good skater, but the defensive side of his games shows some holes. He’ll be a welcome addition in training camp and could challenge for a roster spot. If Heed needs time to adjust to the North American game, at the very least he provides much needed defensive depth for the San Jose Barracuda as he learns the ropes.