PRAGUE – It might feel like the same old San Jose Sharks.
And judging just based on the result, a 4-1 season-opening loss to the Nashville Predators before a sold-out O2 Arena, well, it sure looked familiar, right?
But it’s also just one game: Two things caught my eye, one positive, one negative, one a sign of change, one a sigh of same ‘ol Sharks.
The San Jose Sharks went 0-4 on the power play, but their lone goal, a rousing Tomas Hertl strike, was at the end of one PP, and a third period man advantage just lasted four seconds because of almost-matching minors.
“Not bad, not good” was Erik Karlsson’s assessment of the power play. And that sounds about right for the 22nd-best PP in the NHL last year.
But here are two things that I liked about the power play last night, elements that will bode well for San Jose if they persist.
First, the Sharks were perfect on controlled PP entries last night, 8-of-8 by my count. They entered the zone with possession of the puck with relative ease and were usually able to set up their formation. A couple missed, usually routine passes short circuited a couple emerging attacks.
Here’s one entry that I liked in particular: Matt Benning (5) dropped it to Mario Ferraro (38), who dropped it to Nick Bonino (13), who slid it over to Oskar Lindblom (23).
That was well-planned and executed, definitely good.
The other thing that I liked about the San Jose Sharks’ power play? In about the same amount of PP time – San Jose had 6:04, Nashville 6:25 – the Sharks, per SPORTLOGiQ, had 7 Slot Shots to the Preds’ 3.
Kevin Labanc accounted for a healthy portion of those Slot Shots in one crash of the net on the team’s second power play of the night.
You might ask, what do Slot Shots matter if you don’t score?
Last year, in All Situations, the San Jose Sharks were 30th in the league with 11.8 Slot Shots Per Game. That’s awful.
If the Sharks keep piling on the chances like they were able to on the man advantage tonight, something’s bound to go in.
Okay, so that’s the good. Let’s skip to the ugly.
For the game, the San Jose Sharks actually enjoyed a 16-15 Slot Shots edge. They had good chances and hit a pair of posts. If the Sharks averaged 16 Slot Shots a game last year, that would’ve put them near the league leaders.
But Nashville had higher-quality chances, too many of them, reflected in the Preds doubling up the Sharks 9-4 in Odd-Man Rushes, according to SPORTLOGiQ.
I mean, this was just a gimme to give up:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN NINO NIEDERREITER! pic.twitter.com/TZr7Avigba
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) October 7, 2022
Scott Harrington (4) looks bad for not killing the play on the wall, letting Kiefer Sherwood (44) find trailer Dante Fabbro (57), but he also didn’t get a lot of help from his back-checking forwards. Then Radim Simek (51) let the Fabbro pass through to Nino Niederreiter (22).
It’s just a total breakdown, and that’s not the type of game that the San Jose Sharks can win with their firepower.
So the Sharks had more positives than just Hertl’s stirring goal tonight. Hopefully, they build on them in the rubber match tomorrow night.
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