Sharks’ Alexei Melnichuk battles nerves during first NHL start
Alexander Barabanov ratings late, however Sharks lose in OT to Coyotes
Sharks’ Melnichuk battles nerves throughout very first NHL start initially appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The Sharks are playing out the string, trotting out lineups in order to assess gamers and their location ahead of next season.
San Jose coach Bob Boughner stated the Sharks’ video games following their removal from playoff contention have actually advised him of the time his group didn’t have entering this abbreviated 56-game season.
“It feels a little bit like preseason should’ve felt,” Boughner informed press reporters in a video conference Saturday, following the Sharks’ 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes. “You’re trying different guys and different combinations.
“Tonight, we put some brand-new faces on the [penalty kill], simply attempting to experiment a bit and put men in circumstances ideally to prosper, and I believe you have actually seen that in the last couple weeks. … It’s a chance for these young men, and the veterans need to do their part leading and playing hard. And I believe everyone has actually done that.”
One of those young guys Saturday was 22-year-old goaltender Alexei Melnichuk, who made the first NHL start of his career. Melnichuk had previously relieved Martin Jones in a Feb. 11 loss to the Los Angeles Kings but played in only 15 AHL games with the Barracuda between then and Saturday, and his lack of North American professional experience wouldn’t have been out of place in a preseason contest.
The Russian rookie stopped 27 of the 32 shots he faced Saturday, including 24 of 26 in 5-on-5 situations. He bobbled his first save and Christian Dvorak scored on the Coyotes’ third shot, but Melnichuk told reporters — via his translator, rookie defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov — that he started to feel more comfortable as the game wore on.
Melnichuk has bounced between the AHL, the taxi squad and the Sharks this season, admitting to reporters he has played this season in “an extremely unsteady environment” amid “an extremely compressed” schedule. But he was thrilled to make his NHL debut Saturday, and he has learned some vital lessons during a most unusual rookie season.
“It is difficult for everybody, however he states it’s a terrific experience and he’s gonna eliminate from it as much as he can entering into the next year,” Knyzhov said, translating for Melnichuk.
RELATED: Barabanov scores late, but Sharks lose in OT to Coyotes
Boughner could sense Melnichuk’s nerves, and the coach said the young netminder would probably like “a couple of” of the goals he allowed back. Jan Jenik roofed a rolling puck over a prone Melnichuk from a tight angle practically along the goal line, while veteran sniper Phil Kessel tucked the overtime winner at Melnichuk’s near post.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Melnichuk gave up five goals on 3.69 expected goals worth of chances in all situations. During 5-on-5 play, the rookie allowed two goals against 2.69 expected.
Melnichuk, like fellow rookie Ivan Chekhovich, began his season in the KHL. Saturday’s start was his 33rd appearance in three different leagues since September, not to mention his time “being bumped around” — as Boughner put it — to the Sharks’ taxi squad.
Now, with a major item on his professional bucket list checked off, Boughner hopes Melnichuk feels more secure when he next takes the net. Perhaps that’s in Wednesday’s regular-season finale against the Vegas Golden Knights or, just maybe, in an actual preseason game this fall.
“He got his video game in, and we got a point and I believe that entire thing’s behind him now,” Boughner said. “And ideally he feels more comfy in his next start.”
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.