He might not be good at hockey, but at least Matt Pelech is consistently photogenic. - USA TODAY Sports
A look at the numbers behind the Sharks' 6-2 loss to Columbus.
|Player||TOI||Corsi +||Corsi -||Corsi +/-||Chances +||Chances -||Chances +/-|
- I mentioned in the game preview that Brandon Dubinsky had been a very useful player for Columbus in the early going despite having yet to score. Not only did he get his first goal as a Blue Jacket 43 seconds into this game, he ate the Thornton line alive. Dubinsky was +10 in Corsi playing almost exclusively against Thornton and Pavelski at evens.
- The lesson there, apart from that Dubinsky is good at hockey, is Ryane Clowe doesn't belong on a line with the Joes. Without Marleau's speed, that line has an exceedingly difficult time gaining the offensive zone with possession. They were able to regularly retrieve dump-ins against the Coyotes but I don't think that's a strategy to bank on. The trio was split up near the end of the second period, hopefully for good.
- Marleau/Couture/Clowe, one of the resulting combinations after McLellan mercifully detonated the top line, looked solid. Of course, the question then becomes who fills in at left wing with Thornton and Pavelski. Gomez, despite his lack of foot speed, is creative enough to generate those clean zone entries but didn't exactly look like a natural fit in limited third period minutes alongside the Joes. Maybe T.J. Galiardi deserves a shot in that role.
- No one player is solely responsible for this loss, especially not someone who managed to avoid being on the ice for any of Columbus' 6 goals, but what the fuck is Matt Pelech doing on an NHL roster? You'd think a team in the midst of an offensive slump would call up a player who's top 25 in the AHL in scoring despite missing 9 games with injury, has produced at a point-per-game clip, has NHL experience and was purposefully signed to an NHL contract before clearing waivers earlier this season. But nope, gotta inject grit and toughness instead. Who does or doesn't play on your fourth line is ultimately insignificant but I can't imagine the thought process that goes into intentionally icing a worse lineup.
- Speaking of poor lineup decisions, Murray coming in for Demers after the team dominated Phoenix but couldn't buy a goal is the kind of process-negligent, knee-jerk reaction Todd McLellan has never really had in the past. Hopefully we see Demers tonight in Nashville.
- At least the third line continues to (shockingly) impress. That counts for something.
- Jack Johnson was -1 in traditional plus/minus (and -7 in Corsi) in a 6-2 win for his team. There's probably no chance he doesn't make Team USA next year but what a joke that decision will be.
- These types of games happen and it's nothing to overreact to. Just as the Sharks weren't as good as their 7-0-0 start indicated, they aren't nearly as bad as a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jackets suggests. That said, there have been underlying issues with this team for a while that are now starting to manifest as losses. I absolutely loathe blaming coaching staffs since, as a group, they largely know what they're doing and we don't really have the tools to properly and objectively evaluate them. But some of these lineup decisions have been downright bizarre. I'd be more understanding of the impulse to experiment if this weren't a 48-game season. Ice the top six that started the year, the Sheppard/Handzus/Wingels third line, a fourth line featuring Galiardi, Gomez and (when healthy) Andrew Desjardins, and the defense pairings that appeared against Phoenix on Saturday and I think the Sharks have an elite team. We've just never seen them optimally deployed in a single game.