SAN JOSE – When the Sharks took Joe Pavelski off of the wing and made him the center of the third line last season, it helped the team’s the offense become dramatically more effective and balanced at even strength.
Don’t expect any changes when it comes to the top power play unit, though. The five-some of Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Dan Boyle is one of the most dangerous in the league, and already looks to be in midseason form. On Tuesday night against Vancouver, Thornton and Couture each scored goals with a man advantage in a 5-0 preseason rout of the Canucks.
It comes as no shock that Todd McLellan has no plans to break up that group, even though finding a second unit to pump in a few goals was essentially an exercise in futility in 2013. The top unit accounted for 25 of the team's 34 power play markers last season (74 percent).
“We’re not tearing apart the first unit. We expect the second and third unit to be able to pick up their socks a little bit and contribute,” McLellan said after the game. “Now, we’ve got some new players in those situations that are going to have to learn the system and learn trigger points, if you will. It will take awhile. It will be a work in progress for a lot of the year.”
The second unit on Saturday consisted of Brent Burns, Tyler Kennedy and Tomas Hertl up front, with Jason Demers and Matt Irwin on defense. Demers and Irwin had actually jumped on the ice just before Thornton’s one-timer on a pass from Marleau gave San Jose a 3-0 lead.
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Indications are that Justin Braun, who didn’t dress on Saturday, will also see power play time. It’s probable he’d get the nod ahead of Demers in the regular season, paired with Irwin.
Regardless of who makes up that second unit, the Sharks’ overall power play success will hinge mainly on the success of the top group.
And, it’s a group that is as confident as ever.
“We’ve been playing a lot of years together, we know what each other’s going to do,” Thornton said. “We read really well off of each other and go into nice soft areas for each other.”