February 5, 2011

Niemi, Sharks shut down B's

by Jesse Connolly

Tim Thomas stopped 16-of-17 against the Sharks, but that wasn't good enough for a win on Saturday afternoon. (Getty)

BOSTON -- The Sharks may have only fired 18 shots on net on Saturday afternoon against the Bruins at TD Garden, but all they really needed was one to get the job done.

 San Jose frustrated the B's all day, blocking an abundance of shots, stifling their stale power play and keeping the number of second-chance opportunities the Black and Gold had to a bare minimum in their 2-0 victory.

 "There were some great blocked shots by different guys," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who represented the Sharks at the All-Star Game. "Guys were committing to little things that aren’t going to show up on the score sheet. Getting the puck out. Offensively it wasn’t our best night, but we are finding ways to win right now which we weren’t doing the first half of the season."  

Boyle and the rest of his teammates combined for 25 blocked shots in the tilt, stopping nearly as many attempts as the B's ended up getting through to Antti Niemi.

  "We knew coming in their defense was a big part of their offense," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "A lot of shots, a lot of second chances. We watched them play against Dallas the other night and that was the case. I thought our back end did a good job of clearing them up front, not allowing them to get inside. It’s what we needed."

 Boston had four power-play chances on the afternoon, but looked utterly hopeless against San Jose's suffocating defense, failing time and time again to get over their blueline and set up shop in the offensive zone.

 "Tonight was certainly not one where we would say out power play was good," B's coach Claude Julien said. "The other night against Dallas, even though we didn’t score our power play was good. We moved the puck well and we had some chances. We didn’t score, and at the end of the night you say you have to score some goals, but at the end of the night we had some good chances.

 "We really felt our power play had taken a stride in the right direction. Tonight it was a totally different case. We weren’t good enough in that area. Again, this is our best players having to be at their best."

 Center David Krejci, a member of the Bruins top power-play unit, said it was especially tough to get things going offensively with the Sharks clogging the neutral zone so effectively.

 "It was a tough one," said Krejci. "They had the lead after the first period, 1-0, and then they were just putting the puck behind our D. They kind of blocked the middle of the ice and it was tough to get it through. I think we found a way to get some scoring chances, we just couldn’t bury them."

Goaltender Tim Thomas, who stopped 16-of-17 on the afternoon before Devin Setoguchi sealed the deal with an empty-netter, said he hadn't seen a team play such a convservative style of hockey against the B's all season.

 "I mean they probably played the safest out of any team we played this year as far as not taking any chances, making sure that they got the puck deep instead of trying to make a play," said Thomas.

 "Sometimes it’s tough and makes it hard to generate offense, but defensively we played the right game. We stayed tight defensively so that we made sure we stayed close in the game and waited for our opportunities. We just never got the opportunities that we needed to score."

 That inability to both get and capitalize on opportunities, according to Krejci, was what mattered most.

 "You can’t win a hockey game if you don’t score a goal," the Czech pivot said. "So that’s what happened tonight."