The lack of secondary scoring for the San Jose Sharks was enough to be central to the last two Examiner preseason game reviews. They found it while hosting the Anaheim Ducks by doing what general manager Doug Wilson promised in his off-season rants—turn the team over to its youth—in their latest exhibition Saturday, Sept. 27.
In the first of their four exhibitions against Pacific Division opponents to feature a likely starting goalie, three top forward prospects scored to improve their chances of making the roster at the beginning of a 2014-15 NHL season that will see at least two forwards out with injuries. Along with a good performance from the youngest returning goalie and core forward, the pictured youth starred in San Jose’s second victory of the preseason.
Logan Couture got the scoring started on a first-period power play, with Jason Demers getting an assist to help break the ice against standout American John Gibson. Nikolay Goldobin continued to impress by setting up Barclay Goodrow a couple minutes later, with Matt Tennyson getting a secondary assist. All three of them helped their case for playing time during the 2014-15 NHL season, and the forwards were not done.
On another power play over five minutes into the second period, Goldobin got a secondary assist on another Goodrow goal. With a primary assist, Chris Tierney completed the line’s scoring as all three prospects continue to make a case for an unexpected roster spot. CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz declared after the game Saturday that those three have stood out most so far in training camp.
Anaheim needed over seven minutes of the third period to get the first puck by Alex Stalock, who turned away all other 16 shots faced. Matt Beleskey scored from Marc Fistric and Kevin Gagne to give the team hope, but the visitors managed just three more shots on goal for the rest of the game.
The Sharks kept their perfect preseason record of out-shooting their Pacific Division rivals by at least 15 active. Whether this team would still be deep enough to control the play in the 2014-15 NHL season remains to be seen, but early signs are encouraging.
This game differed from others in the possession statistics. Despite losing six more faceoffs and still managing to have nine more giveaways (barely mitigated by just two more takeaways), they had 16 more shots and 58-38 edge in attempts. Yet the two-time reigning Pacific Division champion Ducks could not block even one more of the extra 20 attempts they faced, allowing more than half-again probability an attempt would get through and a like ratio through for every shot blocked.
Anaheim defended with physical play, earning a 43-14 advantage in hits. Ultimately, that did not get them attack time but contributed greatly to racking up 10 penalties. San Jose scored two of its goals on the power play while killing the only two shorthanded situations faced.
It is a good sign to see the Sharks overcome different obstacles with some positive constants, not the least of which is discipline. They have not had more penalties than their Pacific Division opponents in any of their four games and have averaged eight fewer minutes per game than their opponents. Staying out of the box will help the transition to the post-Dan Boyle era already in the 2014-15 NHL season if they keep meeting the challenge despite younger, ostensibly more mistake-prone players.