SAN JOSE – Just two days after being kept mostly at bay by Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, the Sharks went up against another one of their masked nemesis on Thursday in Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson.
And while this time around the Sharks would skate away with the two points by virtue of a 2-1 shootout victory, the offense was once again unable to find a rhythm as Roloson turned away 37 of 38 San Jose shots.
San Jose did have the benefit of getting Joe Thornton back from his two game suspension but besides an early cheer from the crowd on his opening shift, the Sharks captain didn’t give San Jose fans much to cheer about. Perhaps rust was a factor as Thornton commented afterward that he felt “a little weird, timing was a bit off.”
Either way, the Sharks as a whole need to start executing better in all three zones.
Thornton did give the standard “two points is two points” response and head coach Todd McLellan echoed “two points are in the bank… it hasn’t been happening often enough but we’ll take it tonight.”
Although against a lowly Islanders team playing the second of back-to-backs, a little more was expected from the Sharks. Granted team teal has earned five out of a possible six points thus far on the home stand.
However, on Thursday there was only one skater for San Jose who stood out as above average. Dan Boyle–who got the Sharks on the board at 14:26 of the second with a 5-on-3 power-play tally–was by far the most crisp skater in “teal”. Boyle’s second goal of the year tied the game at 1-1 and his goal in the third round of the shootout sealed an uneasy victory.
The Islanders came into action Tuesday just 4-9-2 and were losers of eight straight, the most recent of which a 1-0 affair in Anaheim on Wednesday. So while McLellan and the Sharks will gladly take the two points, there is still quite a bit of concern moving forward.
Aside from Boyle’s 5-on-3 goal, the Sharks are now just one for their last 22 on the power-play. Combine the struggling power-play with a lack of even strength scoring and two points most definitely won’t be “in the bank” on a regular basis.
“We got to find a way to finish,” said forward Joe Pavelski about the Sharks struggling power-play. “There is a lot in our game where we didn’t come out of zone clean, we fought it at times and our execution isn’t quite where it needs to be.”
Pavelski, whose nick-named morphed from “lil Joe” to “The Big Pavelski” with a fantastic playoff run last year has been one of the key offensive threats for San Jose struggling as of late. Two different instances against the Islanders saw Pavelski all alone in front but both times the Shark center attempted a deke only to come up empty. And in the shootout Pavelski was once again denied on a back-hand/fore-hand move.
What surprises many is that Pavelski is known to be a shooter and it seems as if his lack of production might be causing him to be out-thinking himself. Very rarely does Pavelski not take an opportunity to try and pick a corner with his patented wrist shot, especially in the shootout where he has been the most consistent Shark over the last couple of seasons.
Fortunately for the Sharks, Boyle’s tying goal on the 5-on-3 and backhand winner in the shootout were enough to squeak away with the two points.
Despite one of San Jose’s least impressive games defensively, Antero Niittymaki was once again on his game. The now clear cut No. 1 goaltender stopped 24 of 25 shots, bailing his team out numerous defensive zone giveaways.
Overall though, the Sharks have to start picking up their play as crucial turnovers by Niclas Wallin in the first period and Ryane Clowe in overtime could have very easily led to Thursday’s game ending in a 2-1 Islanders victory.