The San Jose Sharks tied their franchise record for wins in a season with 44 thanks to a 3-0 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The victory moved the Sharks winning streak to four and they’ve obtained 13 of the last 14 points available.
The win was also their fourth shutout in the past seven games and they have allowed just three even-strength goals in those seven contests. This game was different than the recent ones though, as Vesa Toskala returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a groin injury on February 14 at Nashville.
“It’s nice to win after the long break,” said Toskala. “I was happier about how my body felt today. It felt good and that’s a good sign.”
Despite spending the last month on the injured list, Toskala accomplished a goal he set once he learned of the rotating goalie system.
“I set 25 wins as my goal this season, so I reached that and I’m happy about that too,” said Toskala.
Toskala is now 25-9-1 on the season and the shutout was the team’s 11th on the season, tying the franchise mark.
Toskala knows the defense was a big part of the goose egg.
“I think we kept them outside and let them shoot from there,” said Toskala. “That always gives the goalie a chance on the save. There were a couple of two-on-ones, but we haven’t had too many of those the last two games. We didn’t give them any clear breakaways.”
The Sharks know that great defensive play will be what drives the playoff bus.
“When teams aren’t scoring against you, you don’t have to do too much to win games,” said Hannan. “Before we were tentative and sat back on leads. Now were finishing like we start games.”
The Sharks recent winning ways have put a lot of confidence in them heading to the postseason.
“I think the guys feel pretty confident in the system,” said Craig Rivet. “We’re scoring goals, but first and foremost, we’re taking care of our defensive zone. We’re cutting down on key scoring chances. Even when we get to running around, we calm things down and get the puck to the forwards to do their job.”
Rivet may still be the new guy on the block, but he knows what a good hockey team looks like and knows there is more to come.
“Sometimes you don’t want to look at the score,” said Rivet. “Tonight, if you asked the guys if we played our best hockey, the answer would be I don’t think so. We want to play better.”
And they are confident in whichever netminder is their last line if defense.
“When players believe in the goaltender, they play that much better in front of them,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “No matter who is in front, our team’s confidence is really high.”
BIG JOE #1 Joe Thornton
was his usual self and quietly scored the game-winning goal in the first period, and in the process, set a new Sharks franchise record for most points in a season (94), previously held by Jonathan Cheechoo (93 points in 2005-06).
A BIT TIRED
The Sharks played the previous night in Phoenix and were a bit jet-lagged.
“We were certainly a little more than a little weary, we were a lot weary,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “We got the goal and the freshest guy was the most important when it mattered most (referring to Toskala who did not play the night before).”
If the current Western Conference standings did not change, the Sharks would open the playoffs for the second year in a row in Nashville with the Predators.
There are no official records, but Scott Hannan’s empty net tally from behind the goal line would definitely be close, if not the longest goal in franchise history.
“It might be,” said Hannan. “That was a dubious one.”
San Jose will play Colorado Sunday in a 5 p.m. start that will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.