In just two weeks, three teams have held the title of hottest team on the 2015-16 NHL season. The San Jose Sharks are the latest after beating the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday, Jan. 26.
The Florida Panthers had a 13-game point streak stopped one game after the end of their 12-game winning streak Jan. 11. Ten days later, the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks saw their 12-game streak end. After those longest winning streaks of the 2015-16 NHL season, either San Jose or Colorado would lay claim to being hottest Tuesday.
Sweeping the pictured stars, the Sharks went into the All-Star break with a 10th consecutive game earning at least a point because they showed killer instinct against a weakened foe. The Avs had a real shot at claiming the hottest team coming in on four wins in which they gave up just one goal each, but were without their starting goalie and the best available player was just one of the visitors battling the flu.
Semyon Varlamov will miss the next two games dealing with a legal matter surrounding his domestic abuse charge in 2013. Backup Reto Berra was on injured reserve and Calvin Pickard came in ill with just eight wins in his NHL career. Roman Will had never played above the AHL level, where he had a save percentage below .900 and gave up more than 10 goals every three games this season.
The event summary would suggest Colorado was the better team: 38-25 faceoffs, 6-20 giveaways and just a 7-8 takeaway disadvantage for a total of 26 additional possessions, yet an astounding 36-12 edge in hits all leading to a surprisingly modest 57-46 edge in attempts. However, San Jose got more shots on goal (24-22) thanks to a 22-14 edge in blocks over the team with the most of them on the entire 2015-16 NHL season.
Such is often the case when a game is lopsided early. The Sharks continued their success when scoring first (just three losses) this 2015-16 NHL season, getting scores before each of the first two television timeouts.
Dainius Zubrus replaced Mike Brown on the fourth line that put up the first goal: Chris Tierney fed Brent Burns for a shot that went off Melker Karlsson and past Pickard 6:19 into the game.
About four minutes later, Joe Thornton wins a race for the puck behind the goal line and feeds Marc-Edouard Vlasic on the point. The eventual shot did not go in, but Tomas Hertl was able to stuff home the rebound on the backhand behind Pickard.
From there, the game was more competitive until the Avalanche got themselves into penalty trouble late in the second period. Thornton got his 1300th point on the two-man advantage with a cross-ice feed Joe Pavelski put past Pickard. If there was any doubt it ended 50 seconds later when an attempted clear of a Vlasic shot went off the skate of Joel Ward and in for the 4-0 lead.
Pickard was given the third period off and San Jose play-by-play man Randy Hahn wondered if Will’s NHL debut was going to be a cameo when Patrick Roy pulled his goalie early in the third. After sending him back out on a power play, his goal differential suffered for his choice again: Paul Martin got the puck from Burns and lifted it from the defensive zone, and it was just a little too fast for Colorado to stop from going right into the empty net.
The Avalanche managed to score on a power play just over three minutes later when Erik Johnson reversed field and sent the puck to Alex Tanguay. The former championship teammate of Roy passed to new star Nathan McKinnon was blasted home from the slot to break up the shutout.
The Sharks answered on a power play of their own in the final minute, with Dylan DeMelo getting his first career goal seconds after a feed from Tomas Hertl. They are now tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 10th-best record on the 2015-16 NHL season.