The San Jose Sharks hosted their second exhibition game in the 2014-15 NHL season against a Pacific Division rival Friday, Sept. 26. They have now dominated in shot attempts and shots on goal in all three preseason games, but fell to 1-1-1 with a 2-1 shootout loss to the newly-named Arizona Coyotes.
As expected, the Coyotes comprise more of the pictured Examiner stars of the game. It was especially the collaboration of goalies Devan Dubnyk (40 minutes, 21 saves and one goal against) and Louis Domingue (25 minutes of 23-save perfection) that carried the 2012 Pacific Division champions to victory.
Antti Niemi went the distance for the Sharks, turning away 17 of 18 shots in his first action of this preseason. Having the former Vezina finalist and Stanley Cup champion have their best start among the three thus far has to make the team strong for the 2014-15 NHL season.
Their only regulation and goal was scored by Joe Pavelski (his second in two games) and assisted by Brent Burns (one goal, one assist in two games back on the blue line) on the power play. He also netted the only shootout goal to further reinforce the lack of secondary scoring that could be the biggest obstacle to success in the 2014-15 NHL season and subsequent Stanley Cup playoff run.
Arizona got a goal from Justin Hodgman (assisted by Michael Stone and legendary enforcer Tie Domi’s more-skilled son Max), who also put the puck in the back of the net in the shootout. Lucas Lessio netted what turned out to be the game-winning shootout goal in the second round after both teams scored in the first round.
A look at the game statistics shows that San Jose won eight more faceoffs, had 12 more giveaways but four more takeaways. However, those equal possession statistics resulted in a 45-18 edge in shot on goal and 87-47 edge in attempts.
Despite having trouble finding the back of the net, the Sharks must be encouraged by out-shooting a Pacific Division opponent by 15 or more in all three games. Naturally they had fewer hits (17-29) and blocks (14-26) Friday because they were on the attack so much, though both teams blocked about 30 percent of attempts faced and the Coyotes allowed almost 50 percent more shots through for each one they blocked (1.73/block vs. 1.29).
Nevertheless, the Pacific Division promises to be tough in the 2014-15 NHL season. Even with all of the 185 minutes of ice time being against goalies that are not expected to be starters for their teams, they have combined for a .931 save percentage.
San Jose’s next preseason game is hosting the Pacific Division rival Anaheim Ducks Saturday at 5:00 p.m. PDT. The only other home preseason game is against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings Tuesday before playing the remaining three on the road.