The Sharks coasted to a definitive, 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks today in a preseason game that was, from the first minute to the last, a classically hostile matchup between the two rivals. While their offense lacked throughout the game, the Ducks racked up totals in hits (43) and penalty minutes (31) as almost every player took an enforcing role at some point. As early as 2 minutes into the game, the Ducks had to fight on the penalty kill due to Chris Wagner’s boarding of Andrew Desjardins. (Desjardins ended up in the middle of most of the team’s battles throughout the game, and ended up serving some time in the penalty box after his feud with the Ducks manifested in a pseudo-fight between him and Mark Fistric.) The Duck’s penalties ended up being a major contributor to the Sharks’ success- after Sami Vatanen took a seat in the sin bin for hooking in the first period, Logan Couture got the first goal of the game and Barclay Goodrow tacked on another two minutes later- his second in an NHL game, and on a terrific cross right in front of the net from rookie teammate Nikolay Goldobin. He would end up with another goal in the second period, after Nick Ritchie and Clayton Stoner’s penalties led to a 5-on-3 for the Sharks. This goal came off of an absolutely magnificent, behind-the-back pass from Chris Tierney. (Watch the video here) The Ducks managed to get on the board in the third period during a 4-on-4 thanks to Kerdiles’ hooking and Goldobin’s embellishment calls, but their scoring would stop there as Alex Stalock went 16 for 17 from the crease. The game’s tensions climaxed later into a fight between the Sharks’ Taylor Doherty and the Ducks’ Clayton Stoner (watchable here), and the Sharks finished off the last few minutes of the game without much difficulty. The Ducks tried a last-minute push by pulling John Gibson out of the net, but that almost ended up backfiring as a shot from the neutral zone clinged off the post of the empty net. As the final buzzer sounded, the feuding between the teams started back up, and Dylan Demelo picked up an end-of-game cross-checking penalty. End Result: Sharks 3, Ducks 1.
Obviously, one can’t judge the future of a franchise based on a handful of preseason games. However, I’m going to try to do just that. While the usual stars like Thornton, Pavelski, Hertl, and Vlasic sat this one out, we got a great look at some of the Sharks’ rising stars, guys like Goodrow, Goldobin, and Tierney that are here to keep us from getting reverse-swept in round 1 again. (Still not quite over that) And even though it feels great to beat the Ducks in front of an almost-full stadium, keep in mind that Kesler, Perry, Heatley, and Getzlaf all were scratched from the lineup, among others.
Like every optimistic Sharks fan, I can see us making the playoffs this year. Even though Marleau and Thornton continue to age, we’ve picked up more than enough young talent to convert into a successful playoff run and maybe even a nice, shiny, cup-shaped trophy. Case in point: Barclay Goodrow. In his last 2 games, he has picked up 3 goals- his first three on NHL ice, and in spectacular fashion. Logan Couture also looks posed for a great season, in which he will get a C sewn on his sweater and he will establish himself as leader of the franchise. Antii Niemi will most likely remain solid in goal, and even if he fails spectacularly, Alex Stalock seems more than capable of backing him up. Taylor Doherty seems to be settling into a bit of an enforcer role, which should make things exciting. And as to the Sharks as a whole this season? I think that head coach Todd McLellan should have little trouble taking the pieces he has and assembling them into a solid hockey team.
Cover Image: By Elliot [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons