San Jose currently sits one point out of first place in the Pacific Division and from possibly moving into second overall in the Western Conference, but the standings are not the most vital factor following the Sharks Saturday night 4-3 victory in Edmonton. The Sharks found out a little about their internal drive yesterday and there was a lot to like.
For two periods of play, San Jose was down not one defenseman, but two due to Niclas Wallin and Kent Huskins being forced to miss a bulk of the game. In addition, the Sharks had also recalled two players from Worcester the day of the contest, a result of physical ailments up front. Scott Nichol was not able to play and remember that Jason Demers
was also already missing on the backend.
In a contest where the Sharks would have been excused by about everyone for a loss (o.k. the coaches would never allow that internally), they did everything within their power and willed themselves to victory.
The outcome was a result of everyone on the ice and it ironically started with the forwards. Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan was adamant in his post game comments about how the Sharks forwards diminished their turnovers to ease pressure on the defensemen, not to mention ensuring enough goals were posted on the scoreboard.
Then it was the defensemen themselves. Douglas Murray
(26:30), Dan Boyle
(30:31), Marc-Edouard Vlasic
(28:18) and Justin Braun
(22:48) ate up the required minutes when Wallin and Huskins were limited to just over nine minutes between them. Boyle, Murray and Vlasic have been called upon for similar minutes in the past and proven themselves capable. What was most impressive was Braun's 22:48. He's played extensively as a collegian and in Worcester, but this was the NHL and Braun found a way to contribute two helpers as well.
Antero Niittymaki's performance cannot be overlooked as well as he was the final defensive stopper in the 4-3 win.
San Jose played smart, committing just three minor infractions and no doubt staying out of the penalty box was key given the circumstances.
What could have been a difficult night on the ice was turned into a positive because of a complete group effort and the night was one all Sharks fans should be proud of.