The Sochi Winter Olympics are almost over. The hockey tournament IS over, with the Team USA unfortunately off the podium. As teams in the National Hockey League were allowed to resume practice on Wednesday, we ask ourselves an important question for the San Jose Sharks: what should the lines really be come the post-Olympics?
Although Tomas Hertl’s still out recovering from surgery in his knee, Raffi Torres and Logan Couture should both be back as well as Tyler Kennedy and Matt Nieto, who suffered an injury from blocking a shot in the game against the Stars just two games prior to the Olympic Break. Adam Burish made his return into the line-up almost half way into the Sharks’ pre-Olympic home stand.
The whole coaching staff has always preached depth scoring, and quite frankly the whole team needs to go back to the even distribution of goals they’ve had before, not just relying on the top guys. That being said, this is what I think the lines really should be:
Matt Nieto’s shown he’s got the speed and smarts to skate with Captain Joe Thornton on the top line. Though, he’s gone through scoring slumps, he’s shown he is capable of scoring. Brent Burns will stay on the top line with Jumbo Joe. Logan Couture should center Patrick Marleau and Tyler Kennedy. We should all undoubtedly expect Logan Couture’s return to the line-up to have a very noticeable positive impact, even if it’s not immediate.
The third line should consist of James Sheppard, Tommy Wingels, and Adam Burish. Last, but not least, the fourth line will be Raffi Torres — whose physical presence in the line-up has been missed as well — along with Andrew Desjardins and Mike Brown. Defensive pairs, I’m thinking, will be Dan Boyle with Marc-Eduoard Vlasic and Jason Demers with Scott Hannan. Demers, although he still has his defensive lapses sometimes, has impressed me quite a bit this season. He’s beginning to read the plays better and understanding his position and role in the game more. Thus, he’s playing his game more responsibly and as a result is gaining more confidence, which also explains the fact that he’s also found some offense in his game.
We all know the situation in net. I covered it twice in one and a quarter articles (yes, I know that’s not really a legitimate number but I did also cover it in part of one of my articles). Antti Niemi wasn’t the most spectacular goalie for San Jose coming into the Olympic break. He knows he’s needed to be better. Alex Stalock was nothing short of outstanding for the team in Teal. I know I’m stating the obvious there, but those are the facts.
However, we can’t just blame it on the goalies in net. They’re doing everything they can to help keep the puck out of their own net. Without going further on about it (and I’ll probably be covering this particular subject again sometime in the future), Niemi will most likely get most of the starts (including the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on the 27th when Shark hockey resumes) as we go on forth to make it to the playoffs.
Why? He’s our number one goalie. We can all certainly hope that he gets his groove back for the remainder of the season and heading into the playoffs, but the point is he’s the team’s default starter, and — at least for now — nothing’s going to change that.