Fourth-liner Raffi Torres
turned out to be a catalyst for the Sharks
' explosive attack. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
By Allan Muir
Not to steal a rare moment in the sun from fourth-line winger Mike Brown, but the real first star of the Sharks' stunning 7-2 win over the Kings wasn't wearing teal.
Brown may have scored the first of San Jose's seven unanswered goals and led the assault with eight official hits, but the actual catalyst behind this jaw-dropping win was Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who made two decisions early in the second period that turned a 2-0 deficit into a franchise-record-tying rout.
Sensing that his combinations needed some adjusting after a frustrating first period, he pulled Joe Pavelski off of Joe Thornton's wing and slotted him on the third line between Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard. McLellan also recognized that his fourth line was firing on all cylinders and deserved a regular shift.
Both calls paid quick dividends. Brown and Raffi Torres drew the Sharks even by the midway point of the period, setting the stage for Pavelski to help blow the game wide open with a goal and two assists in a four-goal third.
No one should be surprised that San Jose now holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. After all, the home side has taken 18 of the last 19 meetings between these two teams. But the margins of the Sharks' victories -- they won 6-3 in Game 1 -- might be more surprising than the Red Wedding. What was expected to be a tight defensive series has been turned upside down. San Jose has scored 13 goals in two games after scoring all of 10 against Los Angeles in a seven-game second-round loss last spring, and now stands poised to put the Kings on the ropes when the series resumes on Tuesday night in L.A.
Whatever the line for that one is, take the over.
Here are some quick observations on tonight's game, as well as a couple of thoughts on what sets up to be a very important Game 3.
• Here's a question no one anticipated asking: Who starts in net for the Kings in Game 3? Not that Jonathan Quick deserves to be roasted for this one but still ... the Sharks scored seven goals. Through two games, the 2012 Conn Smythe winner has been beaten 12 times on just 68 shots for a goals-against average of 7.20 and a save percentage of .824. That's not playoff Jonathan Quick. That's not even playoff Stephane Fiset. With this series on the verge of turning into a blowout, it's fair to ask if Quick can put this debacle behind him and be the game-changing presence that L.A. needs him to be.
Game recap | Box score | Highlights
It's worth pointing out that Quick started off strong, blanking San Jose on 15 first period shots. He was hung out to dry by defensive breakdowns on at least three of the late goals, but his overly aggressive positioning was an issue on the rallying goals by Brown and Raffi Torres. The Sharks obviously saw a weakness and got their shots off quickly enough to exploit it.
Darryl Sutter said after the game that he thought Quick was "OK." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. So, does he trust his go-to guy to make adjustments or does his decision to leave Quick in for the duration tonight suggest he's already decided he wants Martin Jones to start in Game 3?
• Sutter might not want to overthink things. His decision to bench Jordan Nolan in favor of Matt Greene as a seventh defenseman was an unmitigated disaster. The veteran was on the ice for all three of San Jose's second-period goals and ended up minus-four in just 13:23 of ice. That number looks even worse considering that Greene was matched up against San Jose's fourth line most of the night.
• Greene's problem was his inability to handle the speed of the Sharks, but he was hardly alone. San Jose dominated the neutral zone with quick outs along the boards that allowed their wingers to enter the attack zone in full flight. If there's one obvious adjustment the Kings have to make, it's mucking things up between the blue lines to negate San Jose's speed -- its most obvious advantage.
• Stat of the night: 12 of 18 skaters for L.A. had a Corsi rating of 50 percent or better in this debacle. Guess the much maligned plus/minus can still give a more accurate account of the game from time to time, eh?
• Stat of the night II: The Kings earned one power play opportunity tonight. One. That tells you all you need to know about their lack of quality time with the puck and their inability to make the sort of plays that would force San Jose's defensemen to foul them. If they can't drive the net with any consistency on Tuesday, this series will be over in a hurry.
• Stat of the night III: The Sharks have dressed 12 forwards in this series. Through two games every one of them has scored at least two points. Maybe that's happened before, but I can't say I've ever seen it.
• San Jose has one player who has scored at a point-per-game pace this season. And it's not Thornton. Not Pavelski. Not Patrick Marleau.
It's Torres. Granted, seven points in seven games isn't a huge sample, but it's a fair reflection of his value to this team.
It's amazing how much he's added with just his energy alone, but with a goal in each of the first two games he's reminding everyone that he brings a little bit of skill to the mix, too. His marker tonight was a beauty that saw him shift his balance to accept a bad pass and, in one motion, get off a quick shot that took advantage of Quick's misread of the play. Just a terrific play by a player who is showcasing a broad range of skills so far in this series.