Sharks continue to impress

Inside Sharks

The San Jose Sharks continued to wish upon the falling Stars of Dallas over the past week, registering three straight victories and improving their post-All-Star break record to 8-2-0 as of February 20th.
Unfortunately for the surging Sharks, the Phoenix Coyotes have matched their pace with an identical record over the past 10 games and sit stubbornly one point ahead of San Jose in the precarious Pacific Division where five points continues to define the difference between first and last place. At the Western Conference level, that same five points separates third and tenth places. One good or bad week can result in wild swings in the standings for each of these playoff contenders.

The Sharks began the latest streak by wrapping up their final game of a seven game road swing with 2-1 overtime victory against the Nashville Predators, resulting in an impressive 5-2-0 record on the trip. Cody Franson got Nashville on the board with a first period power play goal, but that’s the only offense the punchless Predators could muster as Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi shut them down the rest of the way with a 30-save performance. Devin Setoguchi evened things up against Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne with a second period goal, setting the stage for Patrick Marleau to come through once again in overtime to seal the victory. Rinne played well considering San Jose’s 50 shot onslaught, but overtime hasn’t been Nashville’s friend this year. With the season winding down to final quarter, they have yet to beat another team in the extra five-minute frame.

The Washington Capitals came to town on Thursday, as fans in San Jose greeted their road warriors on home ice for the first time in half a month. While the Sharks enjoyed a nice day off on Wednesday, the Caps had a late night in Anaheim where they defeated the division rival Ducks in a 7-6 slugfest. In the first period on Thursday night, the Sharks’s Joe Pavelski capitalized on Washington’s slight fatigue, scoring a shorthanded goal just 11 seconds into the Capitals’ only power play of the match. Alex Ovechkin tied it up on the same power play to even things up at the end of the first period. Ryan Clowe put San Jose up 2-1 in the third with an even strength goal, and Dany Heatley put the game away with a power play goal halfway through the period. Mike Vogel of noted afterward, “The Caps are now 0-10-1 in their last 11 visits to the Shark Tank. They’ve been outscored 41-21 in those 11 games.” The Sharks may want to talk to the NHL about arranging a few more dates for Washington in San Jose. They might even be willing to accommodate their team color and roll out a red carpet for them.

As poorly as the Dallas Stars have played over the past month, no team in the NHL has suffered such an absolute collapse as the Colorado Avalanche which had lost nine straight coming into its Saturday evening appearance at HP Pavilion. Make it ten. Antti Niemi recorded his fifth shutout of the season and 12th of his career en route to his 20th win. Devin Setoguchi lit the lamp thrice for his first career hat trick and now has 15 goals on the season. Newly acquired defenseman, Ian White, assisted on Setoguchi’s second goal of the game, giving the former Carolina Hurricane 100 career assists in his first home appearance in teal.

On The Road Again
No, the Sharks haven’t signed Willie Nelson to an entry level contract, which is probably a good thing considering the league’s drug policy doesn’t grant exemptions for California’s medical marijuana laws. Nonetheless, the boys might be feeling as if they’re on the road again with Willie as they embark on yet another cross-country trip this week with tough stops in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Calgary. The Red Wings and Flames are both winners of seven of their past ten games. The Penguins have struggled a little bit of late, at least by their standards, but they still occupy fourth place in the Eastern Conference and cannot be taken lightly. At the conclusion of this trip, San Jose will enjoy 9 of their next 11 games at home.

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