Some would consider a .896 save-percentage (SV%) to be incredibly under average, if not abysmal in the NHL. However, for San Jose Sharks fans, that number has been a constant as over the last three seasons former starter Martin Jones posted that number.
Now, it’s a new era in San Jose. Not only has Adin Hill looked much more competent in net, but the Sharks’ lineup top-to-bottom has been much more exciting through their opening two games. With their shutout of the Montreal Canadiens, the organization has begun their season 2-0-0 for the first time since 2016-17.
With Evander Kane’s 21-game suspension and overall uncertain future, the largest fear entering Sharks’ training camp was replicating the dominance and consistency shown from the team’s 2020-21 leading scorer.
After the preseason and the first six periods of regular-season play, it’s clear the offensive might of the Sharks is stronger this season. That was best shown by Jonathan Dahlen and his excellent two-goal game last night.
His first goal came via a deflection in front of the net. After a Brent Burns wrist shot from the point and a Timo Meier deflection, the puck nicked the 23-year-old for the first goal of his NHL career. This made Ulf and Jonathan Dahlen the first father-son duo to both score goals in Sharks history.
As his center and captain Logan Couture noted, “Dolls (Dahlen) is such a smart player and easy to play with… we read really well off each other.” The 32-year-old assisted on Dahlen’s second goal of the night, in which a rebound from a 2-on-1 rush found the Swede easily.
Head coach Bob Boughner also had praise for the youngster. He noted that Dahlen’s “a really smart player… even though he’s new to the league, we can put him out in situations with Cooch (Couture) against the other team’s top line.”
Meier Returning to Form
In 2018-19 Timo Meier was a dominant force. With 30 goals and 66 points in 78 games, Meier warranted a four-year, $6-million AAV contract. After his progression subsided in 2019-20, but still leading the team in points, Meier fell to 12 goals and 31 points in 54 games in 2020-21.
Now, Meier finds himself tied with Erik Karlsson for team-lead in points after a three-point night, including a power-play goal and primary assist. Obviously a small sample size, but it’s extremely promising to see the Swiss winger atop the team’s leaderboard after last year’s dud season.
“When he gets like this, I try to get him the puck as much as I can,” said Couture. The head coach put it a little more blunt, saying the 25-year-old “looked like a man amongst boys out there tonight.” All these are good signs as the youngster tries to emulate the success he had three seasons ago.
Adin Hill Stands Tall
With 21 saves Tuesday night, Hill became the first goalie of the 2021-22 NHL season to record a shutout. Per MoneyPuck, the starting netminder saved 1.66 goals above expected according to their model. The most important of those saves came near the end of the second period.
With just under three minutes remaining, the Sharks’ fourth line iced the puck in desperation. After a lost faceoff, sniper Cole Caufield attempted to go glove-side on Hill from the left faceoff dot. As Boughner admitted, “that was a statement save… if that goes in, we’re on our heels.”
Hill now sports a .932 SV% through his first two games of the season. While a small sample size, in addition to James Reimer lacking regular-season action thus far, it’s promising for the future of San Jose goaltending to see the 25-year-old’s early success as a starter.
Heading to Ottawa
With nine of the team’s 18 skaters scoring at least two points in as many games, it’s safe to say the Sharks are off to an ideal start. Among those skaters are rookies Dahlen, Jasper Weatherby, and William Eklund, who have all been impressive in their jumps to NHL action.
The club will now head to Ottawa, facing the 2-1-0 Senators coming off a win against the Dallas Stars. This game will be the first of the back-to-back for the Sharks, as they will face the Toronto Maple Leafs the following evening.
Therefore, I suspect Reimer may receive his first start of the season. Look for him and the Sharks’ skaters to continue their momentum throughout the remainder of the road trip.
Josh Frojelin is a young writer from the Bay Area. Josh grew up as a Sharks fan, being introduced to hockey by his father. He is now attached to his phone, waiting to hear the latest in hockey news. In addition to writing, Josh loves theatre, and his corgi Rocky.