Pete DeBoer has dabbled in the Tomas Hertl as a third line center experiment since the Czech forward returned from injury, but Saturday provided some solid data for keeping Hertl as the 3C long term. DeBoer gave Hertl’s line top-tier minutes, and for good reason. Hertl played with Joel Ward and Timo Meier to form what became the Sharks’ best line at even strength.
This is a line we need to see more of — starting tomorrow against the New Jersey Devils. Our data is admittedly limited, so let’s stick with what we saw against the Flyers today. First, take a look at the shot chart from the contest. It shows how every player fared at 5v5 and is from the wonderful hockeyviz.com. Take a look at where Hertl, Meier and Ward ended up.
Yes, the answer is “better than everyone else.” Before you start fretting, I understand the top line had a bad game. Frankly, almost everyone other than the line I am praising had a bad game and Logan Couture being out of the lineup likely had a lot to do with it. Hell, the game starting at 10 a.m. PT probably did, too. So let’s circle back to that, okay?
The stats tell us Hertl and company played well, right? If you watched the game, you didn’t need to check out the graph to know that because your eyeballs already informed you... but it never hurts to check their work, right? The line created nine scoring chances, the highest of any forward group on the ice according to Natural Stat Trick and did everything but score.
Meier in particularly looked like a man possessed. His play reminded me of the way Patrick Marleau has played over the past 20 games or so; he buzzed around the offensive zone, seemed to win everything on the boards and looked likely to score at any moment. They didn’t, of course, but I like this line a lot and think it should become a part of DeBoer’s lineup moving forward.
Here’s how I would line up the Sharks tomorrow assuming Couture’s sudden and mysterious upper-body ailment is resolved:
Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier - Tomas Hertl - Joel Ward
Marcus Sorensen - Chris Tierney - Kevin Labanc
We’ll see what DeBoer draws up in the morning.