The Sharks’ loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night would have been much easier to swallow had San Jose not played so damn poorly in the second and third periods. Make no mistake, this wasn’t the Ben Scrivens’ game. This was just a bad showing by a team that should be playing much, much better against teams like the Carolina Hurricanes.
So it is — great teams play bad games. Instead of overemphasizing the magnitude of one bad loss midway through a very long road trip, we need to talk about the Sharks’ top line. It’s not working right now, and truthfully it hasn’t worked very well since Tomas Hertl was moved to the third line a few weeks ago.
You probably know this already. The line looks bad. It’s far too slow, there’s not much chemistry between Joel Ward and the Joes and the line just hasn’t produced. The numbers back that hypothesis up. The Ward - Thornton - Pavelski line’s corsi-for percentage (score, venue and zone adjusted) is the second-lowest of any combo this season (Micheal Haley - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels is the worst).
It goes beyond just the top line, though. Ward is on three of the four worst combos according to corsica.hockey. That’s a problem. His relative corsi-for percentage (corsi-for percentage when he’s on the ice - the corsi-for percentage of the team when he isn’t) is -2.12, one of the worst on the team.
So what gives? Is Ward no longer a good player? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but he has certainly struggled this season. In his season and change with the Sharks his most effective line is when he played with Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau last season. He also played well with Marleau and Matt Nieto — perhaps reuniting one of these lines is the answer?
If the Sharks play Ward on the third line, here’s how I would divvy up the rest of the lines:
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc - Logan Couture - Joonas Donskoi
Patrick Marleau - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward
Matt Nieto - Chris Tierney - Melker Karlsson
I like Boedker up with the Joes, at least as a stand in until Timo Meier is called up. Right, let’s talk about that for a moment. Perhaps the Sharks should consider calling up Meier, or Nikolay Goldobin, and dropping Nieto out of the lineup. Then you can play Boedker on the fourth line and Meier on the top line.
I prefer to see Boedker on the fourth line than Labanc, particularly given how Boedker has played this season, and I think Meier or Goldobin could play effectively with the Joes. The “middle six” is solid as is in my opinion and should stay as it is.
So what do you think? Time to make a change?