Shark-Infested Blogger

April 21, 2010 5:25 PM

Order Up: a Little Joe all San Jose Needs to Keep Them Going!

So far in this post-season, the San Jose Sharks offence has been anemic, scoring just nine goals in nearly 13 periods of play. But don't blame the second line centered by Joe Pavelski.

Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, and Devin Setoguchi have scored over half of those goals including both game-winners. Clowe leads the team in points with five and assists with four, and Pavelski and Setoguchi are the only two Sharks to have two goals.

By contrast, the "Burger Line" centered by Joe Thornton, clearly one of the three best in the regular season, has no goals and just four points total. Pavelski's line is a combined plus-three while Thornton's line is a combined minus-seven.

In other words, the "Little Joe" line is playing big while the "Jumbo Joe" line is coming up small. Big things really do come in small packages.

Thumbnail image for 2470974606_4ec543a561.jpgThis is nothing new for the Sharks. Pavelski, in just 29 career playoff games, already has more goals than Thornton in his 45, and has more overtime goals than all three members of the Sharks top line. The disappearance of the Sharks top line is the reason they fail every playoffs. This team needs more players like the Little Joe Line to be successful.

Contrast that to the Burger Line: Regardless of Dany Heatley's leg injury, he had a chance at an open net rebound from point blank range in overtime and heeled the puck--that is not the product of an injury, but a choke. Patrick Marleau shot a one-timer from the left point about three feet wide of the net late in the third period. A championship calibre team's stars have to make better plays than that in such critical situations.

Unfortunately, General Manager Doug Wilson has hitched this franchise to too many talented playoff no-shows lacking passion, and should gladly be the conductor on the train that takes all three out of San Jose if he gets to keep his job. For the combined $22 million they are being paid and their lack of production, this team could replace them with a less-heralded line like Little Joe's and still upgrade on the blueline and in net.

In the interim, Todd McLellan can split up the first line as he finally began to do in the second period of Game Four. Heatley spent time on the third line, and that gives a line that energy the top line does not. They could benefit from Heatley's scoring abilities as much as Heater would benefit from their hard work.

Since breaking up the second line would be insane, you have to move someone from the third line up. Putting a centre as proficient in the faceoff circle as Manny Malhotra on a line with Joe and Patty does not spread the talents out well enough. Putting Torrey Mitchell up there puts most of the team speed on one line.

The player who should be on the top line is Logan Couture. In limited action with the team, he has shown the willingness to get to the net for tips and rebounds, a trait sorely lacking in the top line. He has the talent to play on a line with that expectation but would not have the pressure to perform the others do because he played just 29 NHL games including the playoffs.

This would leave the third line with the ultimate grinder in Manny on the faceoff dot flanked by the skill and experience of Heater and the speed of Mitchell. This move improves both the first and third lines, spreads out the Sharks scoring so no team is deep enough to matchup their best defenders or checking line on all three, and keeps from taxing an injured winger too much.

The bottom line is this team is going to need to score more, because they cannot rely on Evgeni Nabokov to continue to bail them out (2.12 GAA, .913 save pct.) against teams whose offence is not as depleted by injury as Colorado's.

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