San Jose is faced with a lot of bad center options with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture out of the lineup. Tomas Hertl has played quite well as the third line center in the past few games and Joe Pavelski has held his own, but the Patrick Marleau-centered second line got absolutely walloped last night by the Edmonton Oilers — this is a recording.
Logan Couture may very well return for the first game of the playoffs; he also may not. Let’s operate under the assumption he won’t, just in case. The Sharks can’t keep rolling out the second line as it was constructed last night and expect it to work because, well, it’s not working.
The line, comprised of Joonas Donskoi, Marleau and Joel Ward, might make a decent third line — though my hunch is the problem stems from Marleau’s inability to play center at this stage of his career. The unit got third line minutes last night according to hockeyviz.com and still got absolutely roasted, as you can see from the graphic below.
Not convinced that line got absolutely roasted last night? Well, take a peek at another graphic from hockeyviz.com. Take special care to see how dominant the Ryan-Nugent Hopkins line was when out on the ice. It’s ugly.
This experiment can’t continue. I was surprised the Sharks didn’t call up another center when Joe Thornton was injured, particularly given Ryan Carpenter’s reasonable contributions to the team this year. If I had my druthers I’d call up Danny O’Regan to give him a little more NHL experience (even though he hasn’t played well this season) but I wouldn’t have a problem with a Carpenter call up.
If the Sharks pull the trigger on calling up a center, here’s how I’d shake out the rest of the lineup:
Karlsson - Pavelski - Labanc
Boedker - Hertl - Hansen
Marleau - Tierney - Ward
Donskoi - O’Regan - Sorensen
Given the way the Hertl line played last night I think they’ve earned a chance to play as the second line. It also puts Ward and Donskoi in a better position to succeed by moving them off the second line (at least, in Ward’s case — I think Donskoi can play on the second line when he has a bonafide second line center).
It’s a shame that Marleau can’t play on the second line as a center anymore, but frankly it’s silly the coaching staff ever thought he could. Perhaps this is a stopgap until Couture or Thornton return to the lineup, but since neither of those players will be back to 100 percent when they return I think it’s worth exploring another option on Saturday against the Flames.