Shark avalanche recap, score: Too little, too late to come back up
If the San Jose Sharks’ last overtime loss to the Florida Panthers was a test of their ability to perform against a top-notch team having a night off and then tilting against the Colorado avalanche was a testament to their ability to play against a team that was hot from the moment the puck hit the ice.
The Avalanche looked a little different in the absence of recently traded forward Tyson Jost, who was replaced by Nico Sturm, and the addition of defenseman Josh Manson, who was also acquired in a separate trade. for a prospect and a draft pick.
Zach Sawchenko was given the start in net, with James Reimer sitting as a substitute and Adin Hill on the injured list. Other changes were that John Leonard and Noah Gregor were healthy scratches in exchange for Jonah Gadjovich and Jeffrey Viel, while Jonathan Dahlen started on the front row (although, unfortunately, he wouldn’t stay there for the entire part).
Despite his slippery spot in the lineup, Dahlen was one of the Sharks’ best players in the opening ten minutes. He, along with defender Nicolas Meloche, started strong. Dahlen’s chips were clean and useful, and Meloche added solid passing and good physicality.
That being said, it wasn’t hard to see that San Jose was struggling to stay consistent. Missed passes, rambling lines – it could have been the second half of the consecutive streak or just one of those days. Whatever the reason, the Avalanche didn’t feel the same way. From the start, Colorado, which is a visibly restless team, took control. The Sharks were having trouble getting the puck out of their own zone, or even into the neutral zone.
In the first seven minutes, Logan Couture nearly put the Sharks on the board, after shoveling the puck into the net on a sprawling, sprawling play that saw Timo Meier collide headfirst with Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz. The goal was recalled for the game being offside, and that deflated the team. Hockey games are notorious for their unpredictability (this is one of the reasons hockey betting is so difficult) and that’s due to momentum changes like this. Couture led one of the first true breakouts and shot attempts, and if that goal had been achieved, we could have envisioned a very different game.
Maybe that’s why the Sharks struggled to get anything on the power play in the first period. Power-play chances led to several shorthanded chances, although the top unit of Tomas Hertl, Meier and Couture worked hard to connect.
In the second half of the first, Viel was called for a hook, which sent the Avalanche into a very successful power play. Nazem Kadri tipped the puck straight into the net from the crease, proving that against the best teams there is little room for mistakes, and that includes unnecessary penalties. If you give the Avalanche an inch, they’ll take a mile, and the Sharks (who keep saying they’re pushing for the playoffs) aren’t able to outrun the defensive zone issues they have. .
The first goal sparked my favorite kind of Erik Karlsson: the mean kind. From then on, Karlsson engineered offensive thrusts, threw incredible passes (which no one could complete, through no fault of their own) and stabilized the backcheck for the rest of the game.
A short fight between Jacob Middleton and Kurtis MacDermid broke out after MacDermid sent Nick Bonino sprawling in the middle of the ice. Matt Nieto was also still in the locker room at this point, following an early shot from MacDermid that landed funny. Nieto would return to play at the end of the first period.
The tide briefly turned in San Jose’s favor in the final six minutes, with the team eventually earning an extended zone time. They weren’t teeming, like the Avs had been all game, but they kept possession of the puck, kept it in the offensive zone and weren’t shy about putting shots on the net.
But just like the ocean, the momentum cannot be controlled, and it swung the other way when just a minute later, Darren Helm landed a turnover from Karlsson to score an easy goal, just over Sawchenko’s glove.
In the final ten seconds of the first period, Marc-Edouard Vlasic pushed JT Compher into the boards, and Compher had no choice but to fight – unless he wanted Vlasic to chop his head off. . The two had two minutes for the altercation, and the second period began with the Sharks trailing by two goals and some time at 4-4.
The second period was like Groundhog Day from the puck drop. Just 34 seconds in, Cale Makar made it 3-0 on a rebound off Sawchenko’s glove.
There was a flurry of chances for the Sharks – Rudolfs Balcers couldn’t grab a pass from Karlsson, but it was clear the Avalanche were in control. Helm took a puck to the face (he was fine), then MacKinnon was called for a hook on Couture, which gave the Sharks a valuable opportunity to get something on the board.
They do not have.
The rest of the period followed much the same as the first, with end-to-end play favoring Colorado. The final five minutes saw the Avalanche press on and Valeri Nichushkin scored on another rebound to make it 4-0. It’s hard to criticize Sawchenko, given his young age and newness to the NHL, but if there’s one thing to take away from his game, it’s that he gives up too many uncontrolled rebounds – which the Team defenders could also help corral.
In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, San Jose didn’t give up and, minutes later, on a buzzing power play, the fourth line broke through. Viel, on a point from Vlasic, broke the shutout in the last 40 seconds.
I know a lot has been said about Bob Boughner changing the lines and removing Gregor and Leonard, but I think it was a smart idea for that reason. Of all his fourth-line revolving doors – Gadjovich, Leonard, Gregor and Viel – there’s no doubt that Viel and Gadjovich are the fiercest of the bunch. They are physical, they will fight and they never play like they count themselves out of a game, even if they are a few goals down. Unlike Leonard and Gregor, Viel and Gadjovich know what their role is on the ice. They’re confident in their game because they’re not trying to find their identity like Gregor or Leonard. Against a team like the Avalanche, who play fast and dirty, Gadjovich and Viel are exactly the kind of skills Boughner was hoping to have an impact.
The third period started with fire. The Sharks had a bit of a jump, but the first half of the third was the most open of the game so far, with Sawchenko and Francouz working equally hard on both sides. Things remained calm, however, until the final six minutes of the game when the Sharks woke up and realized they might be trying to tie him up. Vlasic was an engineer again, with solid defensive play that opened up a slot for Balcers to make it five holes on a 2-on-1. He cut the lead in half, at 4-2.
Sawchenko was fired several times, then in the final minute and 26 seconds, Karlsson broke through with a goal, after Couture managed to keep the puck and drive some good traffic up front. Hertl, Brent Burns and Karlsson couldn’t connect, despite the mad scramble, and just when it looked like San Jose could actually do the damn thing and tie it up, the empty net came back to bite the Sharks. MacKinnon put it aside in the final fourteen seconds, making it 5-3.
Yes, it was a loss, but the near comeback means the Sharks haven’t lost their spark or their confidence, even as individual players seem to struggle throughout the season. With the trade deadline coming up on Monday, every player is under a microscope, and who knows what the roster will look like in the coming days.