San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks Random Impresions, 10/18/2011

The Sharks are coming off their third straight loss, two of which have come at the hands of Pacific Division rival the Anaheim Ducks. The latest came tonight at the HP Pavilion, a 3-2 final score. If you missed the game or just enjoy reliving awful memories, check out or game recap here. If you really want to make it a night, you can watch the 2008-2009 Sharks/Ducks playoff series on NHL Gamecenter.

Or you could read on for our impressions on tonight’s game. So many options! (Says the Editor of a blog that has not had any new content on it for weeks).

Here are our impressions!

• The Ducks second line has been a weakness for them for years now, and their GM Bob Murray did the team no favors by failing to get at least an elite second line forward in return for Chris Pronger, and then trading away the forward he did get in Joffrey Lupul. However, tonight their second line played a great game, even out-playing the Sharks own second line. Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne were lethal offensively, with 2 (primary) points each, and very smart defensively, particularly Koivu. Brandon Mcmillan, filling in for the injured Jason Blake, was just sort of there. He didn’t make any mistakes, which was good, but on the negative side, he created absolutely nothing on offense, in stark contrast to his line mates. I definitely don’t see him as a viable replacement for Jason Blake these next three months.

• On that topic, where is Dan Sexton? He is probably their second best bottom six forward behind Cogliano, maybe even better at times, and he certainly brings more to the table than Matt Beleskey. Yet, he hasn’t been in the lineup for the Ducks to start the season. This is a team starving so badly for bottom-six forward depth that they paid Andrew Cogliano and his 41.6% faceoff percentage more than Patrick Berglund, T.J. Oshie, Martin Hanzal, Darren Helm, and many other players (*) to be their third line center. Center, you know, the position that takes faceoffs. And third line center at that, the line that goes on in important defensive situations, where the importance of winning that big faceoff is amplified. They’re willing to offer Cogliano the moon to shore up (they hope) their bottom six, but they aren’t willing to utilize what they already have? Dan Sexton was the only forward in their bottom-six last season who could create offense with any consistency. His speed, grit, and good skill (for the 3rd line) were tangible assets for the Ducks. I’m curious to know why they aren’t utilizing them.

• Lost in the craziness of tonight’s game, Corey Perry scored the game-winning goal on a very nice delay play that he finished with an even nicer shot from a fairly poor shooting angle. He was at the end of his shift, without his legs, and one against two in the offensive zone, but he still managed to make something out of absolutely nothing.

• Good to see Joe Thornton get his first point of the season. It might have been a gimme on a 5 on 3, but hopefully it will inspire confidence and kick-start a production season for Jumbo Joe.

• Have to give Randy Carlyle credit. He’s been regularly outcoached by Todd Mclellan the last two seasons (after he himself out-coached Mclellan in the 2009 playoff series between the Sharks and Ducks), but he appears to have adjusted his game plan slightly these first two games against the Sharks. I still believe Mclellan is the better coach, but Carlyle coached two very good games here.

• Martin Havlat is coming back friday against the New Jersey Devils, and his return can’t come soon enough. I think he will be really important to this offense, more than people realize, at least while he’s healthy, which is another topic and blog.

• Brent Burns is playing better every game. He still looks like a really skilled forward playing defense sometimes, but that has nothing to do with chemistry or adjusting, that’s just part of his game, and part of what kind of player he is. (For those that aren’t aware, Burns was drafted as a forward, and was later converted to defense, somewhat similarly to Dustin Byfuglien last year, although Byfuglien actually started out as a defenseman, converted to forward, and then converted back last season). But despite some of the high-risk-high-reward aspects in Burns’ game, I do think we will see significantly less of the of Burns getting burned (eh? eh…) as the season goes on and more of Burns lightning opposing defenses on fire with his skill (eh??? I’m building on it, give the pun time to develop!). However, the playoffs might be a challenge for Burns, as he doesn’t have playoff experience, and the opposition’s attack will just be that much harder to defend against.

• I like Colin White’s overall package of size, strength, and decent mobility, but he’s getting caught on the ice for too many goals. I can’t even pinpoint too many bad mistakes he’s making, but the end result of his play hasn’t been great the last couple games. This is a situation where it really could be more a chemistry thing than anything else, although some doubt is starting to creep into my mind. Maybe the New Jersey Devils knew something Doug Wilson didn’t when they decided to buy him out rather than just keeping him on the roster? Maybe he has the look of a good defensive defenseman when he skates and hits people, but his reads are suspect? I will have to watch him play more.

• The Sharks are playing their butts off. I know Sharks fans like to go to effort when the team is losing because they can’t think of anything else that could be causing a team with so many stars to lose games, but to my eye at least most the players have put in effort and more. More effort than the opposition, even. Everywhere you look there are players laying hits, sprinting in on the forecheck, diving around to keep pucks in the zone (or get them out). Effort is not the issue.

• Other teams besides the Sharks know you’re supposed to practice faceoffs, right? I haven’t looked at the official faceoff stats, but to my eye the Sharks continue to absolutely dominate the faceoff circle against, well, everybody. Starting with the puck so much, especially in the offensive zone, is such a huge advantage, it’s a little worrying that the Sharks still aren’t putting in lots of goals. I shudder to think what would happen to the Sharks offense if any of the other 29 teams decided to start focusing on faceoffs too, and leveled playing field a bit.

• The Sharks need to start this road trip off with a win. Go Sharks!

  • More Players Making Less $ Than Andrew Cogliano. David Perron, Cal Clutterbuck, Tomas Holmstrom, Nikolai Kulemin, Chris Higgins, Alex Burrows, and Teddy Purcell.
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