Timo Meier took a pass from Tomas Hertl behind the Los Angeles Kings net and shot a shot that went past goalkeeper Cal Petersen’s left shoulder and just under the crossbar. As he turned and ran away, Meier reached behind his neck with his right arm to grab an imaginary monkey and toss it off his back.
At least it looked like that.
After 23 shots on goal during a goalless drought of nine games, Meier finally found the backbone of the network on Friday and led the Sharks to a 3-0 win against the Kings at the Staples Center.
Meier’s second-half goal was among his eight shots in the net when he scored for the first time since March 15, when the Sharks lost 2-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Sharks, who have now won three times in a row, will face the Kings three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for fourth and final playoff place in the West Division on Saturday. Meier has seven goals and 15 assists in 34 games this season.
“It’s the best game I’ve seen him all year,” said Sharks coach Bob Boughner of Meier. “I know he hasn’t had the best year statistically, but this is the most important time of the year right now and then you see your best players move up. You can tell from the last couple of games that it looks like he’s more focused on the details of his game. ”
Meier’s appearance was part of an impressive night from the second row of the Sharks. Rudolfs Balcers supported Hertl’s and Meier’s goals in the first and second halves and added his own empty Netter in the last minute to seal the win.
It’s TIMO TIME IN ANA, um … LA.
Near enough! Sharks 2-0. #SJSharks | #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/cmQdxpljw7
– TEAL TOWN USA – A podcast from San Jose Sharks (@TEALTOWNUSA) dated April 3, 2021
Per Natural Stat Trick, Hertl’s line had a Corsi percentage of 79.31 with an expected target percentage of 70.9.
“Sometimes you try, but everything goes the other way. I’ve been there a couple of times too. It’s not easy, ”said Hertl when asked about Meier’s frustration in the last few games.
“I think it will really help Timo. I think it was really one of his best games tonight. He skated all over the ice, he made plays. So it was fun. ”
Meier had no fun late last week when he was moved to the third row and ended the Sharks’ 4-0 defeat by the Arizona Coyotes on March 27 with a season low of 12:46 Ice Age.
Much of it was situational as the Haie were on penalties six times, but at the end of that game Meier only had two assists in six games.
Meier was reunited with Hertl and Balcers earlier this week when the Sharks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 in a shootout. He had seven shots on goal that game.
Nonetheless, on Wednesday morning before the Sharks’ second game with Minnesota, Boughner spoke about the need for Meier to be consistently in goalscoring areas and to hold on to pucks.
“As a striker, it’s easy to get a puck and toss it into the net and get an outside shot,” said Boughner. “But to actually get in and use your big body and protect pucks and be on the net for rebounds and second and third chances. To me, that really just means that you stop your feet in gate areas and not swing through and attack outside at your speed.
“It’s really hard to play against you as a great man, as a strong man who is strong, who uses that strength and gets on the net. But if you pull up and cut in half every time, it’s easy to play against it. ”
Meier’s target production has so far met neither his nor the team’s expectations. Meier had 52 goals in 148 regular season games from the beginning of the 2018/19 season to the end of last season, only second after Evander Kanes 56.
Meier can be a streaky goalscorer anyway. Last season he had two goals in his first 13 games in October, then 12 in his next 28 in November and December, followed by two more in 11 games in January.
Part of that inconsistency after a 30-goal season in 2018-19 could be due to his attempting to live up to a new $ 24 million contract signed in July 2019 over a four-year period . Another part of the equation was just the fact that the Sharks were a bad team, finishing 15th and last in the Western Conference after a spate of injuries.
Meier was also just into his fourth full NHL season, and sometimes growth doesn’t always come in a straight upward line.
Perhaps the aggressiveness and tenacity Meier played on Friday can be a stepping stone to bigger things. The Haie need him and other top 6 strikers to take the lead if they want a realistic chance of fourth place.
“I don’t know what is best,” said Meier this season when he heard of Boughner’s assessment. “I felt pretty good out there and the team obviously played well. We knew it was very important to get into this game. So the guys showed up tonight and played a solid game. Back tomorrow. ”