ST. LOUIS – Where should the Sharks be playing Patrick Marleau – on the wing of the Logan Couture line, or as the third line center?
That could be the biggest question on Pete DeBoer’s breakfast plate Tuesday morning ahead of Game 2 of the Western Conference Final at Scottrade Center.
While he wasn’t willing to reveal his plans on Monday – he may not have even decided by then himself – the coach spoke on his thought process when determining how to line up his forwards. Marleau remained with Couture on the second line in Game 1, where he finished the second round.
“I think when you look back at the game the next day, you have to get a real perspective for what happened before you do anything drastic,” he said. “We're not going to overreact to [the loss]. It was a winnable game. We probably had more quality chances than they did.
“If we're coming out of that game having been dominated [possession and chance-wise] and [we] weren't getting anything going offensively, then you look to shuffle the deck. But I don't think that was the case.”
While DeBoer is correct about the Sharks getting the better chances and looks – San Jose outshot the Blues for the game, 32-23 – the possession breakdown is drastic when looking at it line-by-line.
The Sharks were led by the Joe Thornton line, as both Thornton and Joe Pavelski were a plus-15 in shot attempts, while left wing Tomas Hertl was a plus-13. Those where the three highest totals among Sharks forwards.
The trio that struggled was the third line, including center Chris Tierney (minus-9), Melker Karlsson (minus-8) and Joel Ward (minus-7).
It would seem that the biggest advantage the Blues have in this series is that they’re simply deeper up front, one through nine. Tierney and Karlsson, especially, are still inexperienced, and both had their ups and downs in the regular season.
The Sharks found success for much of the second half of the season, as well as the first round and beginning of the second, with Marleau in the middle of the third line. He was there almost exclusively once the calendar flipped to 2016.
But late in the Nashville series, he was bumped up to the second line wing. That helped push the Sharks to decisive victories in games five and seven, with Marleau contributing one even strength goal in each.
In a perfect world, DeBoer would prefer “two Patrick Marleaus, [and] one plays center on the third line,” he said.
That’s not an option, of course, making DeBoer’s decision a vital one as the Sharks try to avoid falling into a 2-0 series hole.
“You balance, are you better as a team, and is the individual better? That's the balance. I'm not here to make Patrick Marleau feel good. We're here to win games, and we're going to put him wherever we feel we have to, to win games,” DeBoer said.