Scouting the Sharks

The Sharks come to the Bell Centre today to face the Habs and they view it as part of a three-game stretch that will give them an idea of what kind of team they are. They play the Red Wings on Monday and the Flyers on Wednesday.

“You like to see where your
team is early on in the season. Game 24 or 25, it’s a good test,” Sharks
captain Joe Thornton told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News after Friday’s practice.
“After those three games, we can look ourselves in the mirror and know
if we’re a good hockey team or not.”

The Sharks come off an impressive 4-0 win in Ottawa on Thursday, a game that had something of a highly charged atmosphere because of Dany Heatley’s return to town. Heatley played well, but the star of the game was rookie Logan Couture, who played junior in Ottawa for the ’67s, He scored twice in the third period, the first multi-goal game of his NHL career. He now has 10 on the season, the top number among all NHL rookies, and will be a Calder Trophy candidate if he keeps that up all season.

Patrick Marleau got the first goal and rookie defenseman Justin Braun was credited with the second.

Antti Niemi got the sixth shutout of his young career, and you’ll remember him as the Blackhawks Stanley Cup winning goalie last year. He’s had an inconsistent beginning to his Sharks career this fall, and has been sharing the duties with former Flyer and Lightning netminder Antero Niittymaki. But Niemi will be in goal today, a reward for his performance in Ottawa in which he stopped all 28 Senators shots.

In fact, the Sharks were pleased as a whole with their game Thursday, which defenceman Douglas Murray said “was the
first time all season that we played well in most areas — whether it’s
the defense taking care of the puck or getting the save at the right
time, being smart, being effective on the power play and penalty kill.”

The Sharks have been dealing with injuries, especially to their defence corps. Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin and Jason Demers have all been out, but Wallin and Demers have been skating and there’s a chance Demers will play today. When all three were out of the lineup earlier this week, the Red Wings were able to take advantage of three call-ups on the Sharks blueline, Braun, Derek Joslin and Mike Moore. The Sens don’t have that kind of offensive strength, but the Habs offense could exploit that inexperience on the Sharks.

Of course, San Jose still has some formidable defencemen in Murray, Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Boyle’s three goals and 19 points is the eighth best mark among all NHL defencemen. 

Winger Devin Setoguchi has missed the last three games with an upper body injury. A good goal scorer, who notched 31 two years ago and 20 last year, he’s only had two this season. He was part of the Sharks strong second line during last year’s playoffs with winger Ryan Clowe and center Joe Pavelski.

But with Setoguchi struggling and Pavelski sporting a minus-9 rating, Coach Todd McLellan has put Clowe and Couture together recently with Benn Ferriero while Pavelski is teamed with Jamie McGinn and Torrey Mitchell. John McCarthy, Scott Nichol and Jamal Mayers are the fourth unit, but McLellan mixes his lines up a lot and when things go according to plan, gives them all equal ice time

No one questions the Sharks top line’s ability to put the puck in the net, with Marleau, Heatley and Thornton always dangerous. Speed is not their main weapon as a threesome, but they are big, strong and excellent at controlling the puck in the offensive zone and lethal on the power play. There have been games this season when they look like the best line in the NHL. 

But, like all the Sharks, they have not played at their best with any regularity. Marleau is a dreadful minus-11 and McLellan breaks them up on occasion too.  Pavelski, Marleau and Couture, for example, played together against the Red Wings on Tuesday (and they were all minus-3).

There will likely be some extra incentive in the game for local boys Demers, Vlasic and Mitchell (see Stu Cowan’s Gazette story). And Couture’s parents, who watched him play in Ottawa, have made the trip to Montreal to watch their son play, too. He didn’t do a bad job in front of them on Thursday.

22 Comments

  1. ajpursell says:

    Couture was amazing to watch from the few games he played last season, and this season he’s showing that he’s got some talent.

  2. JohnBellyful says:

    NEWS FLASH!
    Heuters reporting shocking trade involving three Canadian teams …

    TORONTO – Mired in slumps and in danger of missing the playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ottawa Senators and the Calgary Flames have engineered a three-way trade they hope will turn their seasons around.
    The deal reached late last night sends coaches Brent Sutter to Toronto, Ron Wilson to Ottawa, and Cory Clouston to Calgary.

    “ I love Ronnie, but he just didn’t have the proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence that I look for in a coach,” Leafs general manager Brian Burke said. “I also didn’t care for his ties.”

    Sutter waived his no-smile clause and gleefully agreed to the move, saying he was looking forward to being reunited with Dion Phaneuf.
    “The Flames haven’t been the same since he got traded, another one of those questionable moves made by the GM,” Sutter said. “When Olli Jokinen was brought back, I knew my days were numbered.”

    Wilson, on the other hand, said he was surprised by the trade, saying the Leafs had showed “incremental signs of improvement” in every one of the 116 losses the team has recorded in little more than two seasons under his coaching.

    “But being traded to Ottawa is the best thing that could have happened,” Wilson said. “I’m leaving a team whose top two offensive threats, Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri, worry more about getting points than backchecking, and don’t show up for every game. That won’t be a problem in Ottawa, where you have veteran players like Alex Kovalev and Jason Spezza as role models, playing two-way hockey and never stinting on effort.”

    Clouston could be reached for comment but the offer was declined.

    Burke and Flames GM Darryl Sutter – the other Darryl – said it’s conventional wisdom to fire the coach when teams aren’t doing well, but how can you fire your best friend, Burke said, or your third-best brother, Sutter added.

    Trading them maintains their dignity – and the teams don’t have to pay out the remainder of their contracts so they can sit at home doing nothing, the two general managers said.

    That was critical, agreed Sens GM Bryan Murray, who said his team needed a shake-up after it became obvious Clouston “had lost the locker room.”

    “Clooey’s a good guy but when the players, even the towel boy, started looking him in the eye and calling him “Woody” because they think he looks like that cowboy in Toy Story, I knew I had to act,” Murray said. “A coach has to have the players’ respect – at least to his face. Which, I gotta admit, does resemble that cartoon guy.”

    Burke said the coaching change fits in with his nine-year plan to restore the Leafs’ glory days.
    “Letting Ronnie go and shedding draft picks allow us to focus on getting this team ready to win it all in 2017 – the 50th anniversary of the last time Toronto won the Cup,” Burke said.

    Sutter – the one still with the Flames – said Clouston is the ideal person to have at the helm at a critical time in the team’s history.
    “I’m confident Woody can lead the team to the ultimate victory in 2014 – the 25th anniversary of the only time the Flames won the Cup,” Sutter said.

    Murray said Wilson will look good in a Senators jacket.

    – “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” –

  3. habs365 says:

    The sharks played 2 less games than the Habs and they loss the same amount, they’re not unbeatable and if the Habs play the way they can play for 60 minutes, I think they can do it. we’ll find out this afternoon. jm no mind games…..

  4. RJB says:

    And Stu is back!!! My apologies if you already have posted, this is the first I’ve seen from you in awhile!! Good to have you back on board!!

    “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
    – Bilbo Baggins

  5. Stu Hackel says:

    RJB – Thanks. I’ve done a few things on HIO in the past week, but I’m not posting my SI.com links here, as I did with the NY Times. There are too many of them, up to four a day and we don’t have an agreement between SI and HIO to cross link as I did with the Times and HIO. Perhaps that can be figured out — and I’d like that — but that’s for down the road.

  6. rocketsglare says:

    The Habs will have to be disciplined, patient, and opportunistic against the Sharks tomorrow afternoon

    if they are to prevail. They must play with great intensity and focus and simply outwork them with solid

    team play from end to end. Should be a great game tomorrow afternoon.

     

    Go Habs Go!

  7. pmaraw says:

    i wonder, last time these teams played, montreal won, but in the post game interview, it really sounded like joe thought sj won, will this happen again?  does joe believe he won the cup last year?

  8. JF says:

    That was two year ago.  We were up 3-0 by the end of the 1st period; San Jose scored two in the 2nd, but Halak shut the door the rest of the way.  However, San Jose looked like the better team.  Last year they beat us.

  9. petefleet says:

    Joe Thorton is an arrogant ass.  I think he has forgotten his heritage form living so long in the USA.  I hope the Habs pound them for 60 minutes just to give Joe something to whine about.

    ”’Price is a pleasant suprise”’

  10. habrez says:

    Most teams seem to get wood chipped and soiled when playing the Sharks in a seven game series.

    Thanks for the post!

  11. petefleet says:

    My friend you seem to have forgotten that the Big Bad Sharks lose many more series than they win….no matter who they are playing.  the Habs can handle any team in the NHL if they’re over .500.  LOL

    ”’Price is a pleasant suprise”’

  12. punkster says:

    And your predictions have been sooo accurate as of when?

  13. ajpursell says:

    unless this is a reverse jinx, the sharks run out of steam in the post season. that’s a fact. that’s science.

  14. AndyF says:

    Why, oh why, is the game at 2pm? 

     

    AndyF

    http://andyfroncioni.com

  15. ajpursell says:

    11 am if you’re a hab fan in shark country.

  16. CanadienBoy says:

    Wonder if Martin will try pairing Weber with Gill and George with PK, could be the way to go.

  17. habs365 says:

    not sure if PK will even play hope he does..if he does, for a few shifts I’d like to see him and weber paired up..martin likes the mind games..and as I said before it will come back to haunt him..my guess he’ll go with the same lines he beat the devils with..he’ll probably do that as long as their winning..a lost and the mind games start all over, this is one reason we can’t get a second scoring line going..new linemates almost every game..anyway,all we can do is hope for a win..I can asure ya, mind games won’t beat the sharks..if the Habs play a good 60 minutes..they’ll have a chance.

    Habs is a good team, maybe a little mismanaged.

  18. J.J. of Turku says:

    Good morning to all of you!

    Can’t be more beautiful weather than this one I’m enjoying right now! 

    Game starts 9pm local time, couldn’t be better… :)

     

    http://media.turku.fi/kamera1.html

  19. petefleet says:

    I haven’t missed a game in almost 5 years.  I haven’t worked a Saturday in 4 years.  Can you guys please keep the play by play going on here so I can at least feel like the streak has not been broken?  Go Habs Go

    ”’Price is a pleasant suprise”’

  20. habstrinifan says:

    Why would a coach not ‘speak’ to a rookie he is benching for watever reason. In Stubbs article it said Martin nor presumably anyone on the coaching staff had spoken to Subban. The euphoria of the victory against the lacklustre Devils, in my mind, does not ease the recurrent questions concerning JM’s handling of rookies.

    Abysmal.

  21. habs365 says:

    He talks nice for the fans, but really he’s not like that at all..it’s his way or the highway..only certain players don’t have to produce and are allowed to make mistakes..the rest get to play from the stands.

  22. CanadienBoy says:

    All coaches play mind games,it when the players stop responding and do they owns thing problems araised ex. Kovui and Kovalek era


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