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02-10-2013, 04:18 PM
  #549
Blades of Glory
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A puck possession team is going to give the puck away more than a typical NHL team. The key is to limit the amount of turnovers in the neutral and defensive zones. Against Chicago, the Sharks played a strong game but were destroyed by turnovers on their side of center ice. Few teams have the ability to match the Sharks top lines, but Chicago is one of them, and their speedy forwards made the Sharks pay for turning the puck over in bad areas. Yesterday, they did have some egregious turnovers in the defensive zone, but it did not hurt them primarily because Phoenix simply does not have enough offensive talent to consistently take advantage of those chances. I wouldn't put too much stock in the final outcome of yesterday's game, however. The Sharks absolutely dominated the Coyotes, as they did all of last year and for the last several years. Mike Smith single-handedly won the Coyotes the game. Sound familiar? The Sharks dominated Phoenix last year and would have easily won the division if it had not been for Mike Smith stealing 4 wins for Phoenix, 3 via shutout in games that Phoenix seemed to rarely even touch the puck. It's not 4 shutouts in the last 7 games Mike Smith has played against the Sharks. He's the new Jonas Hiller (primarily because we finally figured out Hiller).

Sometimes, you play a great game and lose. Aside from a few bad turnovers, the Sharks played a great game in all three zones. The Thornton line controlled play at an incredible level; they had a combined +48 corsi, meaning they had an on-ice shot differential (goals+saves+missed shots+blocks) of +48. That's ridiculous. Still, I am not sure why Clowe and Marleau were swapped. Clowe played a great game, but his lack of finishing ability doomed the Sharks. It's fairly safe to say that Marleau would have finished at least one of those chances. Marleau looked out of place with Couture. He played a solid game, but he did not have as many scoring chances as he usually does, which can be attributed almost solely to playing with Couture instead of Thornton. Thornton and Marleau have been together since 2008-09, and there is a reason for that. Their style of play fits in perfect contrast with one another, and their chemistry on the ice allows them to be one step ahead of the opposition. Marleau also plays a huge role as the lead forechecker (because of his size/speed) on that top line. With Clowe taking his place, the top line was not nearly as quick on the zone entry and were mindlessly bad at finishing chances.

The point is, when you have the best line in the NHL, which is what Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski has been since they were put together last year, you don't break it up because they stop scoring at a 2 point-per-game pace for 3 games.

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