Committed Indian of SB Nation's Chicago Blackhawks blog had some questions for us concerning tomorrow night's matchup. Here's what I had to say:
So what did Sharks fans make of the 7-2 defeat in November? Just a bad night at the office? Or a frightening vision of the future?
Sharks fans took that loss harder than most any loss in recent memory... I myself felt almost as sick about the game as I did when the team dropped the sixth game to Anaheim in last years Stanley Cup Playoffs. As much as I'd like to shrug it off and say it was another day in the office, three shorthanded goals should never be allowed to happen under any circumstance, especially on home ice. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a "frightening vision of the future", as I doubt it will ever happen again. I'm not of the camp that thinks that you can "get losing out of the way", but I do think that the Sharks ability to overcome some early struggles will help them in the long run. Last year, the team wasn't really embarrassed in the regular season. This year, coach McLellan has used the occasional embarrassment and disappointment as a motivational tool and teaching opportunity.
Obviously, the big problem has been secondary scoring. While no one expects Malhotra, Nichol, and the Ortmeyer's of the world to bang them in, why aren't Pavelski, Clowe, and Setoguchi producing as much?
Secondary scoring has been an issue to be sure, but timely scoring has been more of a problem as of late. And although Clowe had a rough start to the year, he just snapped a 10 game point streak. As for Pavelski and Setoguchi, both have missed some considerable chunks of time this year. Although Pavelski has looked better as of late, he's still got a long way to go before he regains his form. Setoguchi looked like he was going to have a career year next to Thornton and Heatley, but a knee injury has haunted him all season. He' has played on all four lines while trying to get his form back. The second line will produce, but it's been hard to establish much chemistry with the injuries and almost constant line juggling.
What would be your preferred line combinations, as currently the Sharks are a top-heavy, and we know there's been talk about this in San Jose?
Although a line of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau screws with your overall depth, it's hard to deny the talent those players have and the advantages gained by playing them together. However, McLellan has really tried to mix things up as of late, and has in turn shifted Heatley down to play with Pavelski a majority of the time. I understand what he's trying to do (jump start Pavelski by giving him Heatley, and jump start Setoguchi on Thornton's line), but Heatley was brought here to play with Thornton, and those two should never be separated. Marleau is deserving of a top line spot as well, and can appear there in spots, but Setoguchi showed he could play well there at the beginning of the year. In reality, we'd just like some consistent lines. Here's what speaks to us...
Heatley - Thornton - Setoguchi
Marleau - Pavelski - Clowe
McGinn - Malhotra - Mitchell
Ortmeyer - Nichol - McLaren
The Kings have quietly built a very solid team, and I like a whole lot of their players. They've played the Sharks well this year, and at this point, you have to assume they make the playoffs. Do I think the Sharks are a better team? Without a doubt. But I also think that the Kings are a legitimate worry for the Sharks Pacific Division hopes. Remember too, though, the Ducks have fallen off considerably after being a Pacific Division contender for years, so that's one less team to worry about. As far as the Coyotes are concerned, they'll go as far as Bryzgalov will take them. That could be pretty far, but I don't think it will be good enough to trump San Jose.
This is connected to the first question, but do the Sharks have to win tonight for some sort of mental edge? They've lost to the Hawks when we were missing three of our top six and then got blown out of the building when we were at full-strength. Do the Sharks need a win here to know they can get them in April in May?
I'm not really a believer in the "mental edge" theory, as I think the Sharks have put that loss far behind them. I think it would be the same if they had won the game in similar fashion as to how the Blackhawks did. San Jose has been a team that has fallen victim to placing too much emphasis on past successes, and I believe that because of this, they are taking this season game by game. While that may sound cliche, I hope it's the truth. If they do grab a win tonight, it would be a nice treat heading into the Christmas break. However, it shouldn't matter in the long run. The Sharks already know they can beat any team if they play solid hockey. Although it was a soul crusher, that 7-2 game should do little to sway that belief.