In what seems to be a continued narrative from the preseason, San Jose dominated possession for much of Wednesday night’s home opener against the Anaheim ducks, but failed to put the puck in the net and lost the game 5-2 as a result.
Should we be worried? The penalty kill was abysmal and Martin Jones had a poor night between the pipes. In the third period, Peter DeBoer just couldn’t help himself and dropped his lines into the proverbial blender.
The action got off to a shockingly quick start, and 49 seconds into the game, Maxime Comtois scored on his first ever NHL shot, after a nifty pass from Adam Henrique set him up 1 on 1. Martin Jones failed to react quick enough to the shot through the five hole, and just like that, the Ducks were up 1-0. This was eventually followed by a pretty goal from Evander Kane, who was still, at this point, paired on the third line with Antti Suomela and Joonas Donskoi. Not the best position to be in, for someone getting paid $7 million, but we’ll take the goal nonetheless.
Possession swayed heavily in favour of the good guys- with the Sharks bagging a 67.62% Corsi For according to NaturalStatTrick. The second period saw a highlight reel shorthanded goal from Tomas Hertl that I think I’ll remember for a long, long time. It was a perfect example of what Hertl can offer, and why many have this season penned in as his big breakout year. He beats Montour in a footrace for the puck and then dekes Cam Fowler out of his skates before dragging it to the net and scoring to put the Sharks ahead. Gorgeous.
Naturally, the Ducks scored at the end of their power play to even the score back out, and that would silence the scoring for San Jose.
In the third, Evander Kane had served his penance and was released from his demotion to the third line, spending the remainder of the game back with familiar face Joe Pavelski, moved to centre the unit. From there, the order of the lines becomes unclear, but Thornton was centring Sorensen and Meier, while the seemingly unshakeable line of Hertl-Couture-Labanc remained intact, and the fourth line became Goodrow, Sorensen and (Melker) Karlsson. Ultimately, this wasn’t enough to prevent the Ducks potting three more, one of which as an empty netter when DeBoer pulled Jones for the extra attacker.
This (which shows shot attempts per team) is a sight we saw against Vegas in the preseason. San Jose outshot the Ducks fair and square, even managing 75% of the high danger chances for in all situations. Anaheim went 2-for-3 on the power play against a wavering Sharks penalty kill, so it’s imaginable that the PK will be an area of focus for DeBoer. They saw some stellar chances quelled by John Gibson.
Now, Martin Jones. While a solid netminder, Jones has historically, well, sucked, in the opening minutes of season opener for the last four years. He’s allowed a goal in the first handful of minutes going back to 2015, all in games where the Sharks had 50% Corsi For at 5-on-5. They got unlucky this time, but this isn’t unusual for Jones. He tends to get back on his feet after that first goal against, but this time the Hockey Gods weren’t on his side. It happens.
This isn’t to disparage the Ducks’ performance. They took advantage of Jones’ shaky night and deserved the win, even if their performance on the stats sheet leaves a lot to be desired. The fact remains that San Jose should have had this one in the bag given the state of Anaheim’s injured reserve list, but they took the L and now it’s onward and upwards.
I’m not worried about the Sharks. It’s unwise to overreact to the first game of the season, but this I’ll say: San Jose ran into a goalie carrying his team on his back, while Martin Jones repeated a familiar first-game struggle. It’s only up from here, while Jones finds his feet, as he always does.