Had Todd McLellan scripted every moment of his first NHL game running the bench, it could not have gone much better. After a first period where both teams seemed to be feeling each other out, Team Teal completely took control in the second period and used the surge to complete a 4-1 victory.
While not perfect, it was all the new head coach could have asked for as the club gave him his first NHL coaching victory.
“There were a lot of good signs,” said McLellan. “We did a lot of things well. We have to continue to do that. It was a nice feeling when the buzzer went off. I’m proud of the staff and the players.”
Jonathan Cheechoo proved to be the opening night hero as his two goals provided the necessary cushion. For the Moose Factory product it was a perfect way to jump start the season. Cheechoo was paying the price all night, taking a pounding in front while looking for rebounds.
“It’s part of the game,” said Cheechoo. “They’re trying to knock you off the game.”
As for the danger from his own team shooting?
“It makes you want to go to the net more,” said Cheechoo. “You just hope you don’t get hit in the wrong spot.”
“If the shots are hitting the net, you want to be driving for the rebound,” said Devin Setoguchi. “You get those second and third chances.”
The first Cheechoo tally was a rebound off a Dan Boyle
shot and the second occurred because Anaheim could not gain control of the puck on a couple of Rob Blake blasts during a five-on-three. The puck crossed the line just as the first penalty expired.
Cheechoo had a slower than expected season last year, so he was happy with the quick beginning.
“It’s nice to get them out of the way early,” said Cheechoo.
“It was nice to see Cheechoo rewarded,” said McLellan. “He was a little snake bit in the preseason. He did what he had to do.”
The defense took part in all four goals with Christian Ehrhoff scoring the third tally and Blake getting his second assist on Devin Setoguchi’s first of the season.
“You certainly can’t see as much of the net with three or four people out front,” said Boyle. “You might not get it, but someone else can find the rebound. We’ve stressed the D jumping into the offense and we have six guys that can do it.”
The Sharks made their presence felt early with two big first period hits and one later in the second. Jeremy Roenick started the action by hammering Steve Montador near center ice and that was following by Joe Thornton
taking it to Scott Niedermayer in the offensive zone.
“We had the big hits leading into the second and that’s what the team wants to have every night,” said Blake.
In the second, Jody Shelley took a clean run at Kent Huskins.
San Jose showed how stingy their defense would continue to be when they allowed just three Ducks shots in the second period.
At the 8:40 mark of the third Teemu Selanne was all alone on Evgeni Nabokov and 10 second later Brad May was free in the slot with the puck. Both would be denied as Nabokov would only allow one goal against on the night.
“Teemu and Brad May were alone and it’s nice to have Nabby in net,” said Blake.
Blake is glad that he is not trying to score against his current netminder except for practice.
“I’ve faced him for many years and it was a struggle,” said Blake. “It’s nice to have him on your side.”
“It’s a Nabby game,” said Setoguchi. “There’s not much you can say. That’s the way he is going to play. If he sees it, he’s going to stop it. You have to tip it to get it by him.”
The newest Sharks appreciated their welcome to Silicon Valley.
“It was great,” said Boyle. “The crowed got us started off the bat.”
ANAHEIM HEAD COACH RANDY CARLYLE
“It takes three periods to play the hockey game and we weren’t very good after the first period. For whatever reason we started turning the puck over . . . something like ten times in the first five minutes of the second period.”
“It seems like they got another gear going and we stood around and watched and started to play the game from our own back end. Then they started coming at us in waves and we started taking penalties”
“They won a lot of the puck battles at the start of faceoffs and in one-on-one battles, they won more than we did”
San Jose will return to HP Pavilion on Saturday night in a 7 p.m. contest against the Los Angeles Kings. The contest will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. For tickets go to the HP Pavilion Ticket Office or www.ticketmaster.com.