Last season, the San Jose Sharks were an exceptional squad at both killing the opposing power play and scoring on their own one-man advantages. Early on in Thursday’s season-opening game against the rival Vancouver Canucks, they most definitely did not look like their usual selves.
The Sharks allowed their first goal of the season on a power play to the Canucks’ Jason Garrison after finishing sixth in the NHL with a 85.03 kill percentage. They also finished the game 0-for-8 on the power play, including a full two-minute, two-man advantage half way through the second period.
But it all really didn’t matter in the end. With a 2-1 lead heading into the final period, the Sharks scored two in the third to cement a win in their first game of the 2013-14 season — San Jose’s ninth-straight win over Vancouver, including its four-game sweep in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
Goalie Antti Niemi continued his fine form, saving 21 shots in the 4-1 victory. Brent Burns, Justin Braun, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels each scored a goal. San Jose’s defense looked stellar against Vancouver, who debuted its new head coach John Tortorella. It allowed just 22 total shots by the Canucks, compared to 35 off the sticks of Sharks players.
The Sharks truly looked like a dominant team in the season opener. Of course, they began last year by winning their first seven games then dropping their next seven. Fans can either take this win with a grain of salt or get really excited, because this team looks like an absolutely legitimate contender. It has the perfect blend of a poised veteran presence and fresh young talent, especially in 19-year-old Tomas Hertl, who made his NHL debut Thursday night in San Jose.
As long as the Sharks can keep this consistent pace throughout the season, they will have a genuine opportunity at a Stanley Cup Championship run.