SAN JOSE – There was rampant speculation after Game 2 that Sharks coach Pete DeBoer would dress tough guy Micheal Haley on Sunday in Game 3, after his club was outhit and on the receiving end of some borderline checks from Zack Kassian. If there is one guy at DeBoer’s disposal that could answer Kassian, Haley is the guy.
Instead, the coach stuck with a fourth line of Chris Tierney centering rookies Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, and it proved to be the right move. They were especially good in the first period, playing in the offensive end, finishing their checks and getting some good looks at the net.
The line has been together since the start of the series, and according to NBC analyst Keith Jones, it’s “been [the Sharks’] best” line through three games.
"They were good. They had a lot of chances in that first period,” Logan Couture said. “Timo played really well. He cycled the puck, he was hard on pucks. ‘Tierns’ had a couple good looks, and so did Marcus. Obviously if you ask them I'm sure they'd say they'd like to score on a couple of those chances, but I thought they created them and did a good job."
Tierney had the best chance of all, getting the puck in the high slot with nothing between him and Cam Talbot, but he fired high and wide in the opening frame.
“It comes down to just burying your chances. We had a couple,” Tierney said. “I would have liked to bury that one in the first. I think we need to create more dirty opportunities to get goals. I don’t expect the two teams to give any more leeway, it’s going to be tight the rest of the series.”
Joe Thornton’s return to the lineup, along with the effectiveness of the fourth line, prompted Oilers coach Todd McLellan to make an adjustment to his attack. Leon Draisaitl, who had been on Connor McDavid’s wing, was shifted to the third line center with Kassian and Drake Caggiula.
That was the line on the ice when Kassian took advantage of David Schlemko’s turnover in scoring the only goal in Edmonton’s 1-0 win. The Sharks had just eight shots on goal after the move, too, which occured about six minutes into the second period.
When asked about the line change, McLellan told the Edmonton Journal: “With [Thornton] coming back into the game, they’re big and strong down the middle. It’s one of their strengths. We started the night a certain way and I didn’t think it was working in our favor so we moved a few things around.”
DeBoer downplayed Edmonton's strategic decision.
“You guys want this boxed up so one change made a difference in the game. I don’t think that’s the reality,” he said. “It was an evenly played game all the way through. They make adjustments, we make adjustments. Their adjustment worked last night.”
There were no indications on Monday as to whether DeBoer - who had Tomas Hertl back on the Thornton/Joe Pavelski line late in Game 3 - would make any adjustments to his lines for Game 4, as the team held an optional skate with many players staying off of the ice. But, expect that fourth line to remain together, at least to start.
“I thought they had great energy,” DeBoer said. “I thought they were excellent in the first period. Probably forced them to make a change, which they did. We’ve just got to continue to keep going at it.”
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Mikkel Boedker, who was a healthy scratch for one game in the regular season, was the odd man out for Game 3. He was on the ice longer than any other Sharks forward on Monday’s off-day.
Whether he returns for Game 4 is unclear.
“Those are tough decisions. It wasn’t easy,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think it’s been all bad. I think he was really good in Game 1. He could easily be back in there tomorrow.”