As the season progresses, the San Jose Sharks will find that playing the same opponent in consecutive games has both advantages and disadvantages.
When the Sharks win the first game in a series, they know what to do to continue to thrive while expecting a setback from the other team. If the Sharks lose the first game, they’ll state what to correct for the rematch.
On Saturday, the Sharks faced a team from the Arizona Coyotes who had played a full game more than two days earlier and lost 3–5 at the Gila River Arena when the two teams split their season opening streak with two games.
Timo Meier had one goal and two assists and Ryan Donato scored his first goal in a San Jose uniform, but goalkeeper Martin Jones, who shone in Thursday’s Sharks shootout win, allowed five goals in the Coyotes’ first 22 shots.
With so much parity between the five teams expected to compete for fourth and final West Division playoff spot, maybe it will be like that for most of this year – lots of series differences as teams play against each other twice in a row.
“It’s definitely something you have to get used to,” said Meier, “but it’s also a chance to fix things immediately against the same opponent.”
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To cut travel costs and reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak, NHL teams often play twice in a row in the same building this season, sometimes on consecutive nights.
The Coyotes (1-0-1) wanted to increase their level of competition after their 4-3 defeat against the Sharks on Thursday.
After Meier had played the game 2-2 at 3:27 p.m. in the first half and his pass attempt against Kevin Labanc in the slot of Jakob Chychrun’s Skate and the former goalkeeper Antti Raanta was missing, the Coyotes scored the next three goals with Phil Kessel’s goal brought his team 3-2 ahead.
“I thought we were more structured and better as a team today than in the first game,” said Sharks coach Bob Boughner. “We were looking for this timely goal. I think it took some wind out of the sails, their third goal. But structurally and in terms of detail, I thought we would be better. We ended up spending a lot more time in the (offensive) zone. ”
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After spending roughly the last three weeks in the Phoenix area, the Sharks (1-1-0) will finally leave Arizona on Sunday and travel to St. Louis, where they will play the blues on Monday and Wednesday.
The Sharks’ road trip will then continue on Friday and the next Sunday with games against the Minnesota Wild and end on January 26th and 28th with games against the Colorado Avalanche.
“I love it,” said Sharks captain Logan Couture of the baseball format. “I know it’s been debated among players here for a few years, some people who really want to push it for several reasons – easier to travel, I think it’s better for fans. But i enjoy it. It’s like a mini playoff series and teams can make adjustments to each other in a couple of days, and it’s a bit of a chess game. I enjoy it. I hope we keep it up. ”
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) collides with Sharks goalkeeper Martin Jones (31) during the second phase of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday, January 16, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 5 -3. (AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin)
Some other takeaways from Saturday.
MORE IMPACT PLAYERS: The Sharks only had one line on Thursday, but that was enough as Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane and John Leonard all scored eight points.
On Saturday, the other top line of the Sharks – Couture, Meier and Labanc – had a better game, as did an adapted fourth line from Patrick Marleau, Stefan Noesen and Marcus Sorensen. The Haie power play also took a step forward, scoring eight shots on goal and bonding twice.
The Sharks have also reduced the high chances of danger from 17 on Thursday, according to naturalstattrick.com, to seven on Saturday.
Jones may have been the victim of some unfortunate jumps but was also not up to the level he was at in the opener. The sharks were caught cheating at least a couple of times during the second phase, which resulted in strange men charging in the other direction.
FACEOFF PROBLEMS: The Sharks only won 45 percent of their encounters on Thursday and it didn’t get any better on Saturday. The Coyotes won 60 percent of the ties (28 out of 47).
Jakob Chychrun and Clayton Keller’s goals came immediately after Coyotes’ victory. The Haie were dismantled in the starting circle and won only nine of 32 draws in two periods. Arizona won 28 of 47 draws for the game.
Will faceoffs be a fight earlier this season? Tomas Hertl. Her faceoff leader last season was 7 of 18 Saturday. The second and third best players in the fixtures, Joe Thornton and Barclay Goodrow, play on different teams. Couture, Noah Gregor and Marleau will have to pick up some of this slack.
Perhaps this will open the door to Fredrik Handemark, a faceoff specialist, to get into the lineup soon. He could possibly slip into the fourth row between Marleau and Marcus Sorensen.
“Our puck movement was better than the faceoffs we won, but we lost too many,” said Boughner. “You chase the puck all night. The responsibility rests with the centermen, of course, but we also have to get help from the wingers who come into the circle. But it’s definitely a weakness of our team right now. ”