SAN JOSE In an offseason of change, one of the knocks on the San Jose Sharks was that their group of forwards was nowhere nearly as deep as in previous seasons.
If opening night is any indication, that wont be the case this year.
No fewer than 12 Sharks, nine of them forwards, registered at least a point in a 6-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion. Joe Pavelski and Andrew Desjardins - yes, Andrew Desjardins - lead the charge with two goals apiece.
Despite allowing three power play goals to Phoenix, the Sharks were happy with their effort in pocketing the first two points of the year.
I thought we had a very good first night, and did a lot of things well, said head coach Todd McLellan. We captured the energy in the building and played with it. I thought that was important. The power play was good, and I thought all four lines contributed.
Overall, great start, said captain Joe Thornton, who, surprisingly, was one of the forwards held off the scoresheet. I thought everybody played well, had their legs, and we fed off the energy in the building tonight.
It was a dominating performance for the majority of the game for San Jose, as the Sharks scored two in the first and four more in the second to defeat a team that isnt expected to be much of a threat after losing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the offseason.
The Sharks used their power play to do much of the damage, going 3-for-6. Both of Pavelskis goals came with the man advantage.
While Pavelskis performance wasnt exactly a surprise, Desjardins was, as the Sharks fourth-liner entered opening night with one goal in 17 career regular season games. His breakaway tally after a bad turnover by Phoenixs Adrian Aucoin put the Sharks ahead 4-0 in the second period, and later in the frame he muscled his way towards the net to bank one in off of goaltender Mike Smith to give the Sharks a 6-1 lead before the second intermission.
Pavelski, getting used to a new position on the wing with Thornton and Patrick Marleau, may have been the best player on the ice for the Sharks. He took a great pass from Marleau in opening the scoring at 4:01 of the first period, and made a skillful deflection of a wrister by Dan Boyle late in the second period.
The first goal in particular was one for the highlight reels thanks to Marleaus dish.
Great pass. I saw it right at the end and it pretty much just hit my stick, and it was just a reaction into the net, said Pavelski.
While Brent Burns was the biggest name added to the Sharks in the offseason, it was Michal Handzus who had the biggest impact in Game 1. Handzus drew a couple of early penalties, was strong on the puck, and banked in the Sharks second goal of the game when he caught goaltender Mike Smith out of position.
Burns tallied an assist on the Sharks first goal when he won a battle along the boards, but was on the ice during the penalty kill for two of the Coyotes three goals.
Its only the first game, but from a personal point I think Id get a lot better and more comfortable system-wise. There was a couple times where Im in the wrong spot, because Im not used to playing a different system," said Burns.
Its just a start, but its going to get better every game.
The one criticism coming out of this game will be, of course, the penalty kill. The Sharks struggled with it for most of last season, and players like Burns and Handzus are expected to help that unit improve. Phoenix finished 3-for-7 on the power play, one coming during a two-man advantage and two of them by Doan.
Fortunately for the Sharks, they have six days until their next game on Friday in Anaheim. Its plenty of time to work on some things that they need to correct, while the win will make the trip to the office a little more enjoyable than had they lost.
Its really good because we have a week off. If we lose this one, its tough to sleep all week and tough to practice all week," said Pavelski.
At the other end, goaltender Thomas Greiss finished with 26 saves. The guy who was the third string goalie just a few weeks ago made some key saves in winning his first NHL game since March 28, 2010 against Colorado.
The Coyotes didnt get their first shot on net until there was 12:40 left in the first, but it was a good one. Kyle Chipchura charged the net on a two-on-one shorthanded rush for Phoenix, but Greiss smothered his tip-in try to keep it a 1-0 lead at the time.
Tommy was good. Were rolling along and they get a two-on-one on the power play, he needs to make a great save and he did, said McLellan.
Greiss, starting is first-ever home opener, was asked if he was relieved to get this first game behind him.
Sure. Im happy its over. Im happy we won.