Petshark: Talking Stick
by petshark on 10/29/11 at 11:59 AM ET
Four goals for the Sharks’ fourth win in a row, half-played without a fourth line.
It isn’t right to start by talking about the 4th line. The correct thing to do, I know, is say how the top lines were awesome and scored and the Sharks won. Yes, all that. And Nemo, lots of good things he did. He was unflappable as he often is. Well done. Yay top guys we expect so much from and hardly ever properly appreciate for doing amazing things like being super fast and crazy clever. They can be difference makers in the playoffs, but only if they get proper support, and I don’t mean applause or a meticulous laundry service. I mean effective play from the lower lines.
Todd McLellan didn’t use a 4th line in the second half of the game in Detroit. He also didn’t use the 3rd line he started with. He moved two players from the 4th line up to the 3rd with Handzus and left the Worcester Shuttle vets on the bench.
I can understand why McLellan would opt to use only three lines. That’s something that has worked for him against the Red Wings. But why that third line? What do Andrew Murray and Brad Winchester bring that Desjardins, Ferriero and McGinn do not?
The three line strategy wasn’t the only thing at work. After the game, McLellan specifically stated that he had wanted more from some players than he got:
“I wasn’t overly pleased with a couple of guys, I thought they could make a bigger difference in the game and rewarded some others that were going well. So that will allow us to make some changes tomorrow and look at getting better efforts out of a few people.” -Todd McLellan, postgame
I can only assume he meant Ferriero, Desjardins and/or McGinn, since all three vanished in the second half of the second period.
I see that Desi had the best faceoff win %, though he had a much smaller sample size, as one would expect for a guy who only played half the game, on the 4th line. 43% isn’t great but it’s better than any other Shark center did overall.
Oh, of course. Desi had to sit if they were only using three lines. He was playing center, he wasn’t going to supplant Handzus. Is moving a center to wing mid-game just not done?
Perhaps I am too negative-oriented. Maybe Murray or Winchester or both really impressed McLellan. No, wait, there’s that statement he made. Someone did something wrong. I’m being negative again. He did say some did good things and were rewarded for them. He said both, of course I get hung up on the first part. But he said it first.
Andrew Murray has seen consistent penalty kill minutes and during the first penalty kill, he showed a whole lot of git up and go, he put a lot of pressure on the Red Wings in their own zone. I don’t see any reason to not use him.
Winchester. I don’t know why he is more useful than McGinn. I can’t even consider him and Ferriero in the same thought box because…. apples and oranges. Or maybe blackberries and pineapples. McGinn and Winchester might be more apples and oranges.
Here in the dying minutes of the first period (I’m watching the game over), I see Desi battling behind the Sharks net, he and Vlasic with a couple of Wings. The puck comes out and Winchester takes the penalty that results in the non-goal goal.
I must be nitpicking but when Winchester comes out of the box after that barely successful Sharks penalty kill, he makes a nice start up the ice and then passes the puck out of play. Luckily he was near the Red Wings blue line and not in the Sharks zone.
Right, I see why he needs to be out there. Wait, why?
As a group, the Sharks didn’t look great during the second half of the first period, but during the first half I especially noticed the 3rd line putting good offensive pressure on the Wings. Ferriero managed a nice shot after some fairly aggressive work on the boards from McGinn. I didn’t notice them doing anything stupid or reckless.
I watch the 4th line’s last shift in the game. The Sharks are up 2-1. Clearly, now is the time to tighten things up, since the Wings will be pushing hard to tie the game back up.
Murray and Winchester are out with Handzus. The line shuffle has been made. To his credit, Winchester gets behind the Wings net and tries really hard to draw a penalty, is tripped. It goes uncalled. Bad luck. The Wings charge back into the Sharks’ zone. There’s a lengthy scramble in front of Niemi before the Sharks get control of the puck.
Murray clears the puck despite some pressure, a nice soft touch. The lines need to change, Ferriero and Desi come out, Winchester is still trying to get to the bench. He finally does, after a dump-in that hits Ferriero in the backside, near the Wings blue line. Ferriero can’t control it, his stick is all tangled up in a Red Wing. Another missed trip, in my opinion. Desi follows the puck in, but whatever plan he has is disrupted by the fact that after the puck rebounded off of Ferriero, it landed right on a Red Wing stick…in the neutral zone.
That was a bit of a mess, but arguably not of Ferriero’s or Desi’s making.
The Red Wings come back out pretty quickly. The soon to be benched new 4th line does manage to get the puck back out of the Sharks’ zone quickly, but in so doing, McGinn ices it, firing the puck past a couple of Sharks, Desjardins and Ferriero I believe. A little more patience would have paid off.
Not McGinn’s smartest move. But what about Winchester’s dump-in that hits Ferriero in the posterior? Was that really better than what McGinn did? Clearly Winchester needed to get off the ice but I don’t see how one gets promoted and the other sits. That failed dump-in didn’t result in a defensive zone faceoff but it could have been a very dangerous situation, the puck sliding around in front of three Red Wings so close to the blue line.
Which brings me to the energy thing. Energy is the most commonly used term for the 4th line. Winchester may bring something I can’t appreciate, but if the object is to wear out the opponent, I don’t see Winchester epitomizing that. If you want someone just this side of a wrecking crew, with some eagerness to throw a puck at the net now and again, I like McGinn better for that. I certainly like him better for 3rd line duty than Winchester. I like this penalty-free look on McGinn.
Maybe I am hopelessly biased. I cannot discount that possibility. I must be missing some strategic subtlety.
What about Ferriero? Brought up despite his slim margin for NHL games, only to be demoted to the 4th line and sit? I don’t see him starting on the 4th line next game or ever. What are these upcoming changes McLellan warned of (or promised, depending on your bias)? Murray to the 3rd line? McGinn out? Ferriero out?
I really am very hard to please. The Sharks win against a very determined opponent and I’m all cranky about line re-shuffling. Shocking, McLellan hardly ever does that. He even put Desi and McGinn back together for like a whole shift. What in the world am I agitated about? I must need another beer. Clearly I don’t know how to enjoy a win.
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About Petshark: Talking Stick
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle. I watch, I react, I write it down.
My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org