Marty Havlat's healthy... could it really be that simple?
@ 7:00 PST
30-32-11, 71 points 36-25-10, 82 points 12th in Western Conference 9th in Western Conference
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Battle of California
It's an amazing story really. Martin Havlat comes back after a significant injury layoff, contributes in a win against Nashville and then scores two goals (including the game winner) against the rival Detroit Red Wings. Two wins coming at a time where the Sharks were in desperate need for points, and Havlat was the catalyst.
Is Havlat really the one change that helped the Sharks get over the recent slump-hump?
He definitely helps. While Havlat isn't skating at 100% yet, the fact that he's on the team makes them a complete squad for the first time since late December, when he went down with a freak hamstring injury. His presence on the second line sends ripples throughout the forward group, something that Todd McLellan mentioned during his post game presser against Detroit.
Everything falls into the right order when you have players where the should be. When you have Marty going where he is now, it bumps one down and solidifies the third line. The fourth line was good for us as well, they gave us eight and a half good minutes.
We have been preaching this for weeks now around these parts, and unfortunately it has taken Havlat what has seemed like an eternity to recover. Now that he's back though, the pieces seem to be falling into place.
The first line looks great, with Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture centered by Joe Thornton. I was very impressed with the overall game they played against Detroit, and I expect continued big things from them. The second line looked like it got the biggest jump though; as much as you like Tommy Wingels or Benn Ferriero, Martin Havlat simply makes the Sharks second unit dangerous again. When he's fully healthy, that's a godsend.
The sample size with Havlat in the lineup is minuscule, but I'd be surprised if teams aren't giving second thoughts to sending their top defensive unit against line one. Without Havlat rounding out the top-six, defensive assignments were a no-brainer for opponents. Now, the Sharks can take advantage.
Line three has also come together as a result of Havlat's health, with Daniel Winnik, Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell combining as a defensively sound grind line. The fourth line looked decent as well, and with so many interchangeable parts, McLellan can build whatever type of unit he sees fit for the situation.
Two games is a lot to base a season on, but the Sharks getting Havlat back can only be a good thing. And if they continue their winning ways tonight, they'll be in a much more secure playoff spot... even leading the Pacific Division.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Goals by Demers, Braun and Havlat.