Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Four Lines Deep - 11/4/09

San Jose Sharks @ Nationwide Arena 7 p.m. (EST)
Fox Sports Ohio (HD)

Dany Heatley is earning attention on and off the ice.

The Jackets have started some momentum after a three-point weekend that featured a visit from the Stanley Cup champs and a much-needed road win against the Southeast Division-leading Capitals. The Sharks are as hot as any team in the league. And the last time the Jackets faced San Jose...the game ended much like a seal does during Shark Week on Discovery. Messy.  The Jackets have two things in their favor ---one, it's really hard to believe that the Jackets would drop three in a row in Nationwide. Two, Dany Heatley is making the wrong kind of headlines because of a legal dispute involving his multi-million dollar bonus, the NHL and the NHLPA. At the very least, that has to be a distraction for him personally, and perhaps even for the Sharks new NHLPA rep -- Manny Malhotra.

First Line: Keep the powerplay rolling.  Clicking at a steady 22.8% conversion rate, the powerplay has remained a threat even during the Jackets recent swoon. Simply put, they're getting shots to the net and moving the puck much more effectively between the points. In addition, Stralman and Brassard seem to be much more effective at skating the puck into the offensive zone and making a smart first pass. That puck movement will be key to beating the Sharks PK unit, which is a very solid 85%. Until the team becomes more effective during five-on-five play, the powerplay has to remain a viable offensive threat.

Second Line: Make Hejda's return bigger than Manny's.  Personally, I really liked Manny Malhotra. He's a streaky scorer, but a really dependable third/fourth-line guy and certainly very skilled in the faceoff circle. The Jackets alumni, i.e. Curtis Glencross, can generate big momentum for the their whole team when they score against the Jackets. I'd like Manny to enjoy his return to Nationwide, just not too much. Unfortunately, his departure from the organization was a little salty. Safe to say, he'll be playing with some extra jump this evening. 

Getting the Big Plus back on the blueline is the perfect tonic for the Jackets. Hejda absolutely dominates top scoring lines and makes the ailing PK immediately more effective. The last time the Jackets played the Sharks, their first line had a field day and Heatley was +6. I think that his return improves the morale and confidence of the entire team, most notably young Steve Mason. It will take Hejda several games to get back into season form, but let's hope he can log at least 15-16 minutes.

Third Line: Jump the Sharks.  There's no question that San Jose is playing great hockey right now. They've won 7 of their last 8 and they have some top-tier NHL players in Heatley, Marleau, Thornton and Boyle. But they are missing four regular forwards (Pavelski, Mitchell, Vesce, Setoguchi) to injury and Thornton had six teeth blown out/chipped recently against Colorado and is dealing with the after-effects of that injury. They're on the second game of a three game road swing and they are ripe for a letdown. There will be old friends (Shelley, Malhotra) seeing each other on the ice, but you know that Shelley will hit as hard as he can. The Jackets need to match - or exceed -- that intensity right from the start (feel free to drop em' Boll/Dorsett) and keep the crowd in the game. Let's hope that the fans turn out and the cannon roars throughout the night.

Fourth Line: Listen to the puck hunger. Umberger and Voracek need the puck -- plain and simple. Nash is always ready to score, but this team really depends upon a few emotional leaders to dictate the pace of the game. Umberger is absolutely one of those leaders and he showed his value on Sunday in Washington with a two-goal performance. He was a little quiet last October as well, and then he steadily picked up momentum as the season went on. I think he took a big step on Sunday and he is ready to go on a big scoring streak. Voracek is just a beast. He has been the most consistent offensive threat on the team and he is just playing like a "driven" hockey force right now. He has an impressive +4 rating on a team without too many plus players and was a big part of Sunday's win. I'd expect another solid game from him as well.

1 comment:

  1. Having Heatley's photo on the blog makes me sick. He's a scumbag.