Marty as a Hawk :)
No NHL team is as hot as the Sharks. No team has a better record over its past 10 games than San Jose’s 8-1-1 mark.
That coincides with right wing Marty Havlat’s presence in the lineup after missing the first two weeks of the season so his surgically repaired shoulder could completely heal.
But coach Todd McLellan has a different explanation when asked about his team’s success after starting the season losing three of the first four games.
“I believe we’re faster than we were when we weren’t winning,” he said Friday. “We didn’t go to power skating school or anything like that. We just moved the puck quicker, we’re working into position better. That makes us faster.”
The next test for the Sharks comes Saturday night at HP Pavilion where they face the Phoenix Coyotes, a team San Jose soundly beat 6-3 to open the season before losing the next three games.
“I don’t think we’ll see them that way again. From that night on, they’ve played extremely well,” he said of the Coyotes, who have earned at least one point in seven of their past eight games.
What Havlat’s return has done is give McLellan the top six forwards he penciled in on his top two lines when training camp began. And that has enabled him to successfully rearrange those forwards in different combinations without sacrificing scoring.
Havlat, for example, played his first seven games on a line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe while the top line consisted of
McLellan plays down the significance of his ability to shuffle lines without disrupting the offensive flow.
“I think you guys feel it’s more of a dramatic change. I don’t feel that one bit,” he said. “I think we have six or seven forwards that will probably play in that upper group most of the year as long as they keep their play where it should be. And I think you can roll them out any way.”
Four of the six — Couture, Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski — are natural centers, something McLellan sees as a positive.
“There’s so many centers in that group, there’s so many guys used to playing on the wing,” the coach said. “The complementary pieces are there for any type of combination.”
But though the top two lines clearly carried the team on its recent six-game road trip, the Sharks are starting to get goals from elsewhere as well. Jamie McGinn and Torrey Mitchell each have chipped in over the past two games.
“For sure we need it more on a consistent basis,” said Michal Handzus, who centers McGinn and Mitchell on the third line. “We scored last night, but we’ve got to keep going and build on it. You cannot go a whole season with just two lines scoring.”
The forward lines aren’t the only place McLellan is starting to tinker. In San Jose’s 3-1 victory over Minnesota, the only defense pairing he kept together from previous games was Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray. Brent Burns, for example, skated most of the game with Colin White while Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun formed the other pair.
Some of that was to spread out the minutes being played with Burns getting a season-low 19:34 and Braun 19:23.
But the blue line changes were about more than ice time, McLellan said.
“We look at size factor, we look at shots — right or left hand?” the coach said, “Sometimes we’ll look at experience versus certain lines. We’ll look at retrievals and whether we need a speedier pair or a physical pair. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Contact him at 408-920-5940.
Baby Faced Marty as a Sen
Another Stroll Down Memory Lane For Ya …. Havlat & Burns
A fav pic of mine