They were James Reimer, Jonathan Dahlen, and team defense.
The Sharks got two of the three tonight in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.
First, James Reimer was sensational. Through 47 minutes, he had turned back 38 of 40 Florida shots, and San Jose was hanging onto a 4-2 lead. A slimmer two-goal lead there never was though, as the Panthers roared back with three unanswered goals.
But don’t put this on Reimer though: Per SPORTLOGiQ, Florida had a 27-11 Slot Shots in All Situations advantage. Essentially, the Panthers were camped in the Sharks’ zone all night, to the tune of a 8:52-2:47 OZ Possession Time advantage.
Make no mistake, Reimer got San Jose a point off the Eastern Conference leaders.
San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture agreed: “He’s come back and he’s looked like he did at the start of the year.”
Reimer was arguably the NHL’s best goalie through Christmas with a second-in-the-league .936 Save %, and before the drop of the puck in Washington, arguably the NHL’s worst goalie since Christmas with a league-worst .849 Save % (5+ starts).
Also back? Jonathan Dahlen was at it again, potting a pair of power play goals.
Just last week, the rookie thought he was about to get healthy scratched when he got called into a meeting with head coach Bob Boughner.
“I wasn’t good enough and hadn’t been for a long time. That’s what the message was. I had to be better,” Dahlen shared. “It was a good meeting and good came out of it.”
“Good” is an understatement: The rookie has three goals in his last two games — and the San Jose Sharks now have offensive hope beyond Timo and Tommy.
Nick Bonino, by the way, had something to say about the Sharks’ secondary scoring too: He put up three assists tonight, matching his season total, none better than this pass to a hustling Matt Nieto, who beat Jonathan Huberdeau down the slot.
Matt Nieto extends the Sharks' lead 👏 pic.twitter.com/A8LBH4aPk9
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 30, 2022
But back to Dahlen: There were some little plays that led to his goals that I loved.
The pass ✅
The goal ✅✅ pic.twitter.com/l8LSOdIGdf
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 29, 2022
The much-maligned Noah Gregor (73) pushed back the Panthers penalty kill with his speed, then made a clever backhand pass through Huberdeau (11) to find Dahlen in space. Jasper Weatherby’s net-front presence was also huge on both of Dahlen’s power play goals.
This is actually what led to the power play where Dahlen recorded his second of the night: Jonah Gadjovich (42) beat two Panthers defensemen, Brandon Montour (62) and Lucas Carlsson (32), back to back down the ice to win the Sharks some rare territory in Florida’s zone. Gadjovich has looked more sprightly since his return from injury.
So the San Jose Sharks’ goaltending and the secondary scoring held up their end of the bargain tonight: What happened to the team defense?
“Giveaways. They spend a lot of time in your end. There were some lines that managed the puck properly and other lines that didn’t,” Boughner offered. “[We also needed] better sticks, heavier around our blue paint. They got a lot of second and third opportunities.”
This was a game where the Sharks almost survived trading chances with a far superior offensive side.
“It was one of those games where you gotta really be a team that’s willing to chip pucks in and chip pucks out and have a good F3,” Boughner added.
By the final frame, the Sharks were just dragging. In total, they iced the puck 12 times tonight as opposed to the Panthers’ six. In the second half of the game? San Jose iced it 10 times to Florida’s two.
The team defense was strained by the loss of Mario Ferraro, who left during his second shift of the game:
— TEAL TOWN USA – A San Jose Sharks Podcast (@TEALTOWNUSA) January 30, 2022
“Yeah, it wasn’t pretty,” Couture said. “Obviously, I’ve gotten through some just like that. It was 2017, I had that puck in Nashville, they’re not fun.”
He added, quipping: “Hopefully, he gets some nice new teeth like I did. Make them look a little bit better.”
Couture would miss the last seven games of the 2016-17 regular season because of his facial injury, returning for the playoffs.
“It looked pretty serious to me,” Boughner said. “I know that Mario is getting evaluated by the dentist. Trying to figure out the next step here.”
Obviously, for Ferraro’s sake, hopefully it’s not too serious. But also, any Ferraro absence would put further strain on a San Jose Sharks’ blueline already missing Erik Karlsson. That means two of the Sharks’ three serious minute-munchers on defense would be out, putting an outsized burden on the 36-year-old Brent Burns.
That's the most Brent Burns has ever played in a regular season game (33:48). Previous high was 33:33 in 2009 when he was 23 years old and still with the Wild
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 30, 2022
Tonight, however, the San Jose Sharks chose to focus on the positives.
“Three out of four points to start a road trip against four of the best teams in the league,” Bonino offered. “That’s a really good start.”
We’ll see, down Karlsson, Adin Hill, and probably Ferraro, if they’re singing the same tune tomorrow after taking on the Carolina Hurricanes.
THE photo pic.twitter.com/URpZEBidnN
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 29, 2022
By the way, as much hype as there was pre-game about the San Jose Sharks taking on Joe Thornton for the first time since he left San Jose, it was a fairly unremarkable game for Jumbo. The 42-year-old played 11:41 and recorded two shots.
Couture, who made his NHL debut in 2009, had this to say about his first game-ever again Thornton: “It was weird. Opening draw, I was able to beat him, which was nice. But that whole first shift, they were in our end.
“He’s so big and strong still with the puck, makes good plays behind the goal line. Still a good player, which is crazy.”
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.