The days of the 1-0 shutouts in the NHL could be coming to an end. Sure there will still be shutouts, but with the new rules in place for 2005-06, hockey fans should be prepared to see more of what they've been longing for...scoring.
A prime example of that was on display Saturday night at the Savvis Center in St. Louis, when the Sharks managed to squeak by the Blues in the closing minutes of one of the wildest games played in franchise history.
In a game that saw the Sharks early 2-0 lead get eclipsed by four straight Blues goals, San Jose scored for of the last five goals. Jonathan Cheechoo's winner at 18:08 gave the Sharks a 7-6 win.
San Jose proved they are not only mentally tough but also physically capable of hanging in with any team on any night. Team Teal also showed this isn't the same kind of League anymore. The hungrier team will most likely come out on top.
"It's getting back to the way the game was played in the 80's," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson, who played in the NHL from 1977-88. "It's a lot more wide open because you can't defend the same way so there's going to be more scoring chances. Their team (St. Louis) really struggled with their speed and it showed in the first period and especially in the third, so we took advantage of that."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, San Jose held the late lead in Nashville on Opening Night, but were outskated in the third period, ultimately suffering their first defeat of the season.
"You realize that if you have a one-or two-goal lead, it doesn't matter anymore," added Wilson. "If you sit back and try to play cautious hockey you're going to find yourself in trouble if the other team is coming hard. You have to stay aggressive and on the attack for 60 minutes. If you get a team like us that's going to be on the attack a lot, you're going to see a lot of wide open games. It's exciting for the fans."
In the NHL's first 40 games this season, there has already been an eye-popping 41 percent increase in scoring. In a new era where goals can come at any point in the game, there has never been a more important time for a club to have a legitimate goaltender. San Jose is fortunate to have two outstanding netminders in Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, but even they acknowledge that the new rules have made it tougher on defense.
"We haven't been doing ourselves many favors," said Nabokov. "When you're killing two or three penalties, 5-on-3, it's really tough. We have to start playing a little smarter hockey game. It's the beginning of the season and I think the guys are getting a little confused on the officiating, but once it all gets a little settled down I think it'll be different."
For a goaltender that has a solid career 2.34 goals-against average, Nabokov realizes that scoring will come more easily, but isn't concerned about stats, just wins.
"It was a good win for us," he said. "It doesn't matter if it was 10-9 or 7-6, it was a good win. We'll take it anytime over a 1-0 loss. If we're going to get to where we want to be, we'll have to play a bit differently, but I think that will come."
On Wednesday Oct. 12, the Sharks will play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion at San Jose. All fans in attendance will receive 2003-04 Pacific Division Championship banners as well as a miniature Stanley Cup. For those not able to be at The Tank, the game can be viewed on FSN Bay Area, and can be heard on the Sharks Radio network as well as sjsharks.com.