The signing of Mikkel Boedker gives the Sharks top six a new look this season and so far the second line of Boedker, Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi has looked incredible. It always seemed like the speed of Boedker would match up well with Couture and Donskoi and the early returns are very promising.
My first inclination came from the eye test — the players mesh well together, thanks in large part to the stellar puck distribution of Couture. When we talked to the center he said his primary job was to get the puck on those guys sticks and let them go to town. So far so good.
This chart, from HockeyViz.com, shows how the Sharks play with specific players on and off the ice. The numbers surrounded by blue boxes are the on-ice impact of players and the red boxes are impacted by a player being off the ice. So go ahead and gander at the top right corner to see where Couture (39), Donskoi (27) and Boedker (89) are hanging out.
Yeah, that’s pretty darn good. Which makes Peter DeBoer’s ice time decisions last night all the more puzzling. Chris Tierney got more ice time than Couture and the “third line” got second line minutes. Check out the following chart from HockeyViz.com to illustrate what I’m talking about.
Tierney, Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward got more minutes than Boedker and Donskoi while Couture got fewer minutes than both Marleau and Tierney. I just don’t get that — not as a knock on Marleau or Tierney, but because of how damn good Couture is. It’s not as if this is performance based, either. The Couture line is empirically, obviously better than the Tierney line. There’s nothing wrong with that! That’s fine!
We’ll chalk Saturday’s game up to early season weirdness and not an indicator of a future trend. The point is that the Sharks’ top six is absolutely nails this year, or should be over a long sample size. The top line struggled last night, but San Jose boasts a real nice top six in addition to one of the best defense groups in the NHL.
Tired of charts? Alright, let’s hit the film room.
The puck is about to be dumped in. That’s Boedker coming to the right over the Columbus blue line, Donskoi is at the top of the screen and off screen and in the Columbus zone is Couture. The Sharks are going to score here. How?
Couture tags up and chases the puck over to the top right of the screen. Donskoi is also charging in to put pressure on the Jackets. They see a play developing here on what should be a pretty easy clear for Columbus. Boedker is chasing behind as the trailer.
Couture throws the puck at the net, creating a big ole rebound. Donskoi drew two Columbus players below the Blue Jackets goal line and here comes Boedker to finish the play off, all alone, for his first goal as a Shark. Hit the video.
These dudes are good.