The biggest question entering this game was, will the Bolts, who are very average at 5 on 5 play so far this season, do well against a Sharks team that is excellent at the penalty kill? Several games so far this season have been bolstered by the strength of power play goals. Could the Bolts win a game with none?
The answer was, someone must've told the Sharks that they needed to play a very polite, clean game, because they took no penalties in the first, and were even awarded a penalty shot after Joonas Donskoi was hooked by Andrej Sustr. The only power play in the second was due to a Sharks bench penalty, and in the third, due to a high-sticking minor that the Sharks easily killed.
The Sharks' penalty kill was, in fact, ridiculous, winning 30 out of the past 31, and they were more than capable of handling what the Bolts threw at them.
The first goal against was an ugly fluke, with Patrick Marleau ending up as firmly embedded in Ben Bishop's net as the puck and Brayden Point. At first the ruling on the ice was no goal due to interference, but San Jose used their coach's challenge and had it overturned because a Bolt was the one who made contact with Bishop. It was ruled a good goal. The explanation is here:
The explanation on that Marleau goal: pic.twitter.com/ZVVOW5K62b— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzCSN) November 13, 2016
The second goal was due to a defensive breakdown by Braydon Coburn, who was late to follow Tommy Wingels as he skated to the slot and shot in a pass from Chris Tierney. Wingels has done far too well in Florida, scoring his second goal in as many games.
2-on-1 with Koekkoek taking the skater and Coburn late coming back. Wingels gets the puck in the middle and beats Bishop glove side. 2-0— Raw Charge (@RawCharge) November 13, 2016
By the end of the period, the reporters around me discussed how two goals down entering the second is the new normal.
The first period did leave me with this question: How much do faceoff wins count toward maintaining possession of the puck? At first intermission, shots were fairly even (8-7), but Bolts won 13 faceoffs to the Sharks' 7. And Sharks ended the period up by two.
More of the same -- Bolts won faceoffs (23 to 21 at the end of the second) and put forth enough energy to have a small edge in possession (shots 18 to 16 at the end of the second) but were unable to solve Martin Jones. The "fun" part of the second was when the teams took penalties, and we got to see how special teams would do against each other.
At the 7:48 mark, Vladdy was penalized for high-sticking and the Sharks had a power play attempt. At 8:52, M-E Vlasic went ahead and got the power play goal, despite the Sharks ranking 17th in the league in PP conversion to Tampa's 7th in league penalty kill.
And then, at 10:59, San Jose was given a bench penalty for too many men on the ice, but their penalty kill managed to handle the dangerous looks from Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.
At this...point in the game, I noticed Point:
Point's line with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson saw more than a few giveaways, but Point was always the player doggedly chasing the puck behind the net. Point also dug deep to try to get a goal in any way possible, with two-ish breakaways, one that he passed back to Kucherov, and one that he sent ineffectively to Martin Jones' chest. He's also been at the net to dig the puck in under Jones, but while his energy was high, his shots were predictable. Experience will cure this!
At 22 seconds into the third, Joe Pavelski got called for high-sticking, but the Bolts' power play went 0/2 as both units were driven far back into their own territory by the Sharks.
Then came a period of sustained action of the "energy line" around Jones, and Bolts finally got a goal at the 5:43 mark of the third. A determined combination of Brian Boyle and Cedric Paquette shot the puck at Jones over and over until Stralman finally got it in, ugly but effective. The building erupted again after that goal -- Tampa fans are used to seeing the team battle back from behind, and hope swelled.
Then, at the 14:07 mark, Stralman got hurt, and hope wilted again.
The third, for me, was the story of Stralman. Dogged and unwilling to quit, he prevented breakaways by covering his players like (metaphor for something very sticky), and always left the puck in a better place than it was to begin with. Of course, this also put him in the way of danger, and he was in the wrong place when Joe Thornton skated by him and did something -- odd -- with his stick in Stralman's stomach that left him doubled over and hurting. He ended up walking down the tunnel with the athletic trainer.
Bishop was pulled with three minutes left, but despite the extra attacker, the team fizzled out.
Losing the game happens. But have the Bolts lost Stralman? That would really suck.
Next up, Bolts play the Islanders and the Red Wings back to back on the road. Hopefully, the injury was nothing (we’ll keep our eye out) and Stralman will be with them.