SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks held on late to a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. With the Game 4 triumph, San Jose’s best-of-seven series with the defending champions is now tied at two games a piece. The win for San Jose was essentially a carbon copy of every game in this series. Joe Thornton was spectacular (again),Logan Couture scored on the power-play (again), and the Sharks were the better team (again).
But what really stood out for San Jose was the way Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart was an absolute animal on the penalty kill. The veteran defenseman—whom San Jose reacquired this offseason from Detroit and subsequently signed to a three year deal—has been the key cog in turning around a Sharks penalty kill that was near dead last a year ago but finished sixth this season.
While the Sharks did surrender their only goal while down a man, Stuart’s gritty work in Game 4 shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The guy gives everything he has on every shift and is a damn good defenseman. On the second Kings power play of the game, Stuart essentially tackled Kings star center Anze Kopitar out of harms way. Should it have been a holding penalty? Maybe, but the sly veteran pulled up just enough to not get called with the infraction.
You may not see Stuart on the score-sheet and he’s another soft spoken type of player so he doesn’t get talked about much. But if there was ever a guy who wants to win at all costs, it’s Stuart. Two seasons ago when Stuart was playing with the Red Wings (whom he won a Stanley Cup with back in ’08) against the Sharks, a Benn Ferriero wrist shot deflected off his stick and past Jimmy Howard for an overtime game-winning goal. In pure disgust after seeing the puck go in, Stuart turned and violently chucked his stick full force at the glass making an audible thud even amongst the pandemonium of cheering Sharks fans. He’s one of those players who simply hates to lose.
Stuart’s work certainly doesn’t go unnoticed amongst his teammates. Dan Boyle (another cup winner) was very forthcoming about what No. 7 means to this team.
“Usually you have the same guys that are in front of the camera. You know Logan, Jumbo, Patty, Pavelski, but you don’t win cups or win series without guys like Stuart. Guys that are sacrificing their bodies, they don’t necessarily show up on the score-sheet but what they do is certainly appreciated.”
“All year he’s been like that for us” chimed T. J. Galiardi on Stuart’s performance. “I think that’s a huge reason why our penalty kill has turned around is him. The work they’re doing, you can’t say enough about it, it won us a game that penalty kill.”
“Stuey’s great” added Couture. “Great pickup for us this year. You don’t realize how good he is until you play with him. He’s been excellent this year, great on the penalty kill.”
“He specializes in that area” commented Sharks head coach Todd McLellan about Stuart’s efforts on the PK. “[He's] very competitive, good at clearing pucks, gets in shooting lanes, he’s a big part of [our PK].”
In Game 2 Stuart scored a goal with a bomb of a slap shot, in Game 3 he delivered a monster hit on Justin Williams. These are the plays that stick out to the fans. But his overall game on Tuesday night stood out to me more than the hit or the goal. Individual plays are nice, but hockey games are won on a consistent strong body of work. That’s exactly what Stuart brings the Sharks, and it was especially evident in the Game 4 win.
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