And just like that the Sharks have two convincing wins and are looking like contenders. Plus they still have played two less games than the other top Western Conference teams, except for St. Louis.
What’s the difference? First, I think having (almost) everyone back and healthy has to be factoring in. Also, clearly, the all-star break really helped the team re-charge. Finally, while the Sharks are still playing solid defense, I think at least for these past few games they’ve been getting more agressive on Offense and have been scoring goals off of second chances. The final goal last night was a perfect example of this – Couture’s dump-in shot was on net and rebounded straight out. Couture followed his shot in and tied up both defenders so that when the puck trickled out past the scrum, Ryane Clowe had a great chance on the follow and was able to slip it past everyone.
Have the Sharks started their stretch drive? I hope so. More games like these past two sure will get my hopes up.
Responding to Comments! and also sharing an old story… Re: calling out Niemi… Its not that he has been playing poorly. In fact, with two consecutive shutouts, you’d have to say he’s playing quite well. However, as Drew Remenda always says, your goalie has to be your best penalty killer and that wasn’t the case for a while there. Lately, much better, so we’ll all keep on rooting for Anti. Which leads me to my next story… Certainly last Tuesday’s game was one of the Sharks strongest efforts of the year. 2 goals in each period, a shut out, and Boyle absolutely demolished Derrick Brassard late in the 3rd period. Heading to the game, we heard on the radio how both Thornton and Marleau hadn’t scored in a while, there last goals coming against the Blue Jackets in the previous two games… so right off the bat, who scored? Yep, Thornton and Marleau, which leads me to dust of my ‘limp gambit’ theory. This comes from an old Bill Cosby sketch, about high school football, how some guy fakes an injury, and then next thing you know is burning you for a big play. My thinking is this: the Sharks collectively, while trying relatively hard, have learned that it doesn’t pay to go full out night after night in the regular season, you have to have something in the tank for the Playoffs… So, hopefully what we saw Tuesday was the first game in the Sharks stretch drive, and they’ll play with that fire and pop now through the rest of the season and into the playoffs.
Related note: I’m hearing that Clowe is back tonight, but Niemi is out with an injury. Is it a good think that Nitimaki cleared wavers? We’ll see…