SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks returned home Tuesday night after an abysmal 2-6-1 nine game road trip. It was such a miserable trip that one local Sharks media personality called Tuesday’s home contest with the Philadelphia Flyers a “must win.”
San Jose managed to pick up a mere five points out of a possible 18 on the trip, one that saw them fall from third place in the Western Conference all the way to seventh.
Home for the first time in over two weeks, the Flyers contest may not have been a “must win” in the truest sense of the term, but it was a critical game nonetheless with the tight standings and now just 21 games remaining till the end of the regular season.
Fortunately for San Jose, their two new acquisitions from Monday’s trade deadline helped pave the way to a much needed victory. Daniel Winnik and T. J. Galiardi were acquired on deadline day from the Avalanche in deal that saw Jamie McGinn move to Colorado. Both players made an impact right away, particularly Winnik, who made a game saving shot block in the final minute to seal the 1-0 win.
Winnik and Galiardi played predominately on separate lines and the Sharks overall looked like they had a renewed sense of urgency with the new look. While the Flyers may have been a weary team in their own right, San Jose simply hasn’t looked like a cohesive group for awhile and perhaps the victory over the Flyers can be a stepping stone in the right direction.
And at least for one night, the new acquisitions helped San Jose get back to the basics and simply play the way they know how to play. Line combinations for almost everybody on the team were spanking new, so certainly a refreshing way for the players to perform.
With the new players in the mix, the game against the Flyers had similar opening night-esque excitement to it.
A few players in particular had some extra jump.
Jason Demers had been taken heat recently for some poor play in his own end (albeit, almost everyone on the Sharks had been at fault for porous defensive coverage on the road trip). One tweet mentioned Demers’ lack of physicality of late. But against the Flyers, Demers was engaged from the get go. Of course nobody is perfect, and Demers has played better games in his career, but there was clearly extra bite to his game.
Ryane Clowe managed to score the game’s only tally early in the first period, on a nifty wrist shot from the left circle. The slumping Sharks winger hadn’t scored in his previous 13 games. And with his good buddy Logan Couture out of the lineup, Clowe couldn’t have picked a better moment to start picking up the slack.
Clowe played the majority of the game alongside Joe Thornton and Tommy Wingels. The new trio probably won’t last for a significant amount of time but was certainly the Sharks’ top line Tuesday night. Clowe had the goal but Wingels chipped in with a couple of crunching hits and Thornton was his usual puck control self, controlling the game for crucial stretches.
Many in the media thought Thomas Greiss might get his second start in a row, but the Sharks and Niemi proved us wrong with a bounce back performance.
Antti Niemi’s effort included a couple of miraculous reaction saves on strange deflections but at the same time a couple of routine saves saw some poorly placed rebounds reach the sticks of Flyer forwards. Still a shutout is a shutout and that has to help build Niemi’s confidence moving forward.
Overall, the Sharks put forth a much improved effort than seen throughout the road trip but it’s only one game and there is still major question marks regarding the squad moving forward.
Colin White was once again problematic on the blue-line and one has to wonder why Jim Vandermeer doesn’t get more time at defense instead of forward.
Time will tell moving forward as the Sharks look to get some healthy bodies back into the lineup in an effort to turn this season back up to one to remember.
Notes: Sharks center Logan Couture missed the game with a lower body injury.
Lots of rough stuff between former LA King and now Philadelphia Flyer Wayne Simmonds and numerous Sharks players. More than the usual scrums for a west vs east matchup.
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan missed the game as he recovers from a taking a stick to the face while on the road trip. In this day and age with NHL injuries, you could probably list McLellan as day-to-day with a LOWER body injury.