Over the course of the Sharks long, historically successful road trip, a lack of depth on the third and fourth lines seemed to be a major issue. The fourth line would be lucky to even get a shift in third periods. Last night, in the 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks, the third pairing proved to be the biggest weak point.
"You're playing a world championship team without Couture and Braun in your lineup, so you know you're going to feel the effects of that," head coach Peter DeBoer said.
While the third and fourth lines had their struggles - it may have been Hertl and Donskoi's worst game of the year, the third pair of Matt Tennyson and Mirco Mueller seemed to be more concerning. At even strength, Mueller had a 25% Corsi - 5 attempts for, 15 against. Even worse, Tennyson was out-attempted 6-0 while he was on the ice at evens in that game, and had at least two very egregious turnovers early on. Tennyson played four shifts in the last 40 minutes of that game. It will be interesting to see if the Sharks try calling up Dylan Demelo for Saturday's game.
The other big weak spot in the game was the start. "We didn't come out with the push or energy we needed," Paul Martin said. "We started too late." Along with the start, the turnovers - from Tennyson and from forwards - was particularly concerning. "That was absolutely the difference in the first period," DeBoer said. "We didn't turn that many pucks over I think in the entire road trip as we did in the first period tonight."
Perhaps the team was a bit tired from that trip, but they aren't using that as an excuse. "It's there if you want to use it, we don't want to use it," Patrick Marleau said. "We've been home for a couple games too, I don't think it played into it."
On the bright side of things, the home power play curse is over! The Sharks finally scored a power play goal at SAP Center. Not only did they score one, the power play seemed to be a strength all night long. "We get one early, and we get some looks throughout the game where you think you can get better and we had some chances - no doubt" Joe Pavelski said. Pavelski set up Burns for a forceful one-timer - one of 15 shots the Sharks had on the man advantage last night.
In semi-good news, the fourth line at least got a few chances in the game and some playing time in the third period. Mike Brown even had a breakaway. It didn't end well as he couldn't get a shot off, but he's a fourth liner. If he can even threaten like that on a semi-regular basis, he could be a big help.
Brown's futile breakaway attempt pic.twitter.com/Wdl85zNgrp— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 26, 2015
Meanwhile, Dainius Zubrus made his debut and ended up with a 50% Corsi at even strength. DeBoer was impressed with how good he looked, considering. "He hasn't played, hasn't had a training camp, skated sporadically," DeBoer said. "I know what he's going to be able to do for us once he gets up to game speed." Hopefully Zubrus can help improve that fourth line and the bottom six in general for the Sharks. They'll need it as the season wears on.
"We'll regroup and hopefully play a faster game next time," Pavelski said. "They had their chances, but it wasn't overwhelming by any means. It was right there, we just need a little bit more."
We'll see if the Sharks can reach down and solidify their play a bit more on Saturday when they play host to the Calgary Flames.