SAN JOSE- There is absolutely zero reason to be worried about even strength scoring when it comes to the San Jose Sharks. When media and fans bring up the overall five-on-five numbers from last season—where the Sharks were what 27th or something?— just stop. That number means nothing, it’s garbage, it’s useless.
As our friends at Fearthefin.com have mentioned time and time again, only Sidney Crosby outscored Brent Burns in even strength points per 60 minutes of ice time last season. Last I checked, after the move of Burns to forward towards the end of last season, the Sharks did not have problems scoring (outside of Jonathan Quick’s heroics anyway).
This season Burns remains at forward on a line with Joe Thornton and rookie Tomas Hertl whom combined on Thursday for the Sharks first goal of the season, at even strength.
In fact, all four of the Sharks goals on opening night were at even strength, including a goal from the defense, and the third and fourth lines chipped in offensively as well.
If you’re not convinced the Sharks are as good as anyone in the league just yet, give the season a few games, because it won’t take this team long to convince you.
Even with skilled veteran forwards Raffi Torres and Martin Havlat injured to start the year, this Sharks team is big, fast, and deep. Not to mention they have one of the best goaltenders in the world in Antti Niemi.
Opening night’s 4-1 win did come at the expense of a Vancouver Canucks squad not predicted to do too much winnning this season (and rightfully so) but San Jose was exactly as advertised, coming out in wave after wave.
Not only did Burns score (with Hertl earning his first career point with a primary assist) but the game winning goal came from defenseman Justin Braun whom might surprise a lot of people with his offense this year.
Now fully established as part of San Jose’s shut down pair alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Braun made his NHL debut during the 2010-11 season in which he scored 11 points in 28 games. He came up with a knack for getting pucks through to the net on a consistent basis. Last season however, a hand injury during the lockout limited Braun’s offensive game (just 7 points in 41 games) but Sharks head coach Todd McLellan fully expects his young defenseman to flourish offensively this season.
“Braunie had a hand injury all last year that occurred when he was over in Europe, it prevented him from really playing the type of game that he can play.” commented McLellan. “Tonight, we saw him get pucks through, they don’t have to be big slappers, just seeing eye pucks that get to the net.”
Braun’s goal wasn’t the only secondary scoring for the Sharks in the opener. Third line right wing Tommy Wingels scored the fourth and final goal of the night, finishing off a two-on-0.5. A rather hard fought two-on-zero with a backchecker right on their heels, Wingels finished off a give-and-go with fourth line center Andrew Desjardins late in the third.
Wingels is another guy, like Braun, whom is expected to produce a bit more offensively this season and he talked about trying to pick up his offensive game—without deviating from his hard nosed style—during Thursday’s morning skate.
“You just have to stick to things that you do well and continue to get into the tough areas. If you look at where the goals are scored in this game, this year and years past, it’s right around the net so you force yourself to get to those areas more. Playing with guys like Joe [Pavelski] and [Matt Nieto] who has speed and skill, hopefully find some chemistry there.”
As for the one other goal the Sharks scored Thursday, some guy named Logan Couture stole the puck away and some guy named Patrick Marleau buried it in the back of the net.
This team is really, really good. Some of you may need 10-15 games to realize it, but the Sharks are as good as anybody.
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