The Sharks beat the Ducks 3-0 to kick off their Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoff matchup. But even if that score was reversed, I’d still be telling you this same thing: No series is ever won or lost in Game 1.
That being understood, it was quite the statement win by the Sharks. There is no shortage of individual and team angles that come with the favorable result, but what’s most important now is the home ice advantage taken away from Anaheim. And the guarantee that San Jose will eventually return home for Game 3 with at least a split in the series.
1: Nine years and 574 games was worth the storybook playoff debut for Evander Kane.
Consider your first day on the scene of anything important. It’s not easy to be successful with so much on the line, especially when half the task is guarding against your own overexcitement, and the human element of trying to do too much. Evander Kane admitted those factors after the game, saying that he “got off a little slow in the first period” but that he felt more comfortable as the night went along. His two-goal postseason debut is easily a chapter for the Sharks history books, and something we’ll likely be talking about for years ahead.
2: The Ducks showed frustration and lacked discipline while ending their seven-game home win streak.
If you’re the Sharks, this is an obvious good sign. Anaheim took seven minor penalties, and their two-man disadvantage early in the second period sparked what turned out to be a three-goal stanza. While Randy Carlyle has to be ticked at his team’s frequency in the box, individual body language told a bigger story of San Jose getting under the Ducks’ skin. Brandon Mountour personally tried to force the heads of Timo Meier and Marc-Edouard Vlasic through the ice surface at Honda Center, while Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler each volunteered themselves as part of post-whistle extracurriculars. The takeaway here, is that the more “chippy stuff” you see from Anaheim in the series, the better it’s likely going for San Jose.
3: Joe Thornton took warmups for the first time since January 23rd. Now What?
The NHL’s smoke-screen is thicker than ever during the playoffs. If you’re Joe Thornton, why not confuse the opponents, the media, and the entire hockey world by regularly appearing with your team for a pre-game twirl? At the same time why wouldn’t you be out there? It’s legal, it’s free, and even if there’s not even a stitch of chance he’ll play in this series — Jumbo’s participation in the room, and his presence around the group is invaluable. I’m not here to say Joe is out for the rest of the season, even though I believe he’s in a race against time. But should that fortunate day arrive where he becomes available, it’s a difficult decision for Pete DeBoer, who will need an honest self-assessment from the future Hall Of Famer, and then try to slot him in the lineup accordingly. That strategizing will be more difficult than it sounds.
4: If this is the beginning of a deep Sharks playoff run, it will be a result of their team defense.
Yes, the three-goal second period comes away as the headline of Game 1. But the deeper story was their defensive effort. Anaheim was held to four, nine, and 12 shots by period. Their low shot quantity was also proportionate to the quality of chances. They didn’t look dangerous for any sustained period. And even with their handful of “best looks”, Martin Jones was ready in rock-steady form making 25 saves, and recording his fifth career postseason shutout. This Sharks team was built around, and is coached around solid play without the puck. Adding Evander Kane wasn’t only about helping San Jose’s offensive prowess, it was the need to take just a little pressure off the defense, so that they didn’t have to keep being perfect on a nightly basis in order to win games.
5: Brent Burns was a beast, scoring the third goal, and putting eight more shots on net. And as for his partner?
This is the same Burns who went a full 20 games this season before getting his first tally. Number 88 seemed snake-bitten at different points of the campaign, but as everything reverted to zeroes before Game 1, maybe the clean slate is what Burnzie needed most. He’s a proven performer in the second seasons, with 28 points in his last 31 playoff games. But let’s not forget his defensive partner, Paul Martin. After looking like he would never play another game for San Jose just four weeks ago, he was a +1 with a shot on goal, in almost 16 minutes of diligent work in Anaheim.