SAN JOSE – Sure, it’s something of a cliché to say a team has to “roll four lines” in order to be successful. But it’s true. When the Sharks have been at their best this season, it’s because their depth has shown through.
In their crucial Game 5 victory over the Golden Knights on Thursday evening, San Jose’s depth was a key factor yet again, with their fourth line putting on a show. It’s something Team Teal needs if the Sharks are going to play past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially since their current opponent also has a fourth line that can have an impact on the game.
“I thought those guys were good,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of the trio of Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. “They’re getting some effective minutes from their fourth line, whether it’s on the scoresheet or just softening up the next group going out there. We have to do the same thing and I thought those guys did.”
When asked about his line’s performance, Goodrow told the press they accomplished what any fourth line should.
“You just look to create energy,” he said. “We want to spend as much time in the offensive zone as possible. Hold onto pucks, create cycles, make plays.”
Goodrow and Karlsson have been staples on that fourth line since the start of the regular season, while Donskoi only recently joined them after an injury took Micheal Haley out of the lineup. While Donskoi didn’t get on the scoresheet in Game 5, his hard work was rewarded when DeBoer moved him up the lineup in the third frame.
“I thought Donskoi was on,” DeBoer said. “He had good jump, he had good energy, he was inside.”
Of course, the biggest contribution the fourth line made was in the second stanza when Goodrow found the back of the net. San Jose was holding onto a 2-1 lead when the fourth-line center redirected a Justin Braun shot from up top to give the Sharks a much-needed two-goal cushion.
“That’s a big goal for us by Goodie at that point,” DeBoer said of the goal, which was also Goodrow’s first playoff marker. “We needed that.”
The goal also countered the attack of Vegas’ fourth line, which thrives off of strong physical play and knocking their opponent around. Goodrow’s line was able to halt that attack by playing a more offense-forward game.
“Whenever you can keep their fourth line out of your end, it kind of limits their physicality,” Goodrow summarized.
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San Jose will need those fourth-line contributions to continue if they’re going to have success Sunday when the series returns to Las Vegas.
They have yet to hold a lead at T-Mobile Arena, and the fourth line has yet to contribute to the Sharks’ cause in a game played in that building. But if they can put forward the same effort they did in Game 5, the Sharks are going to have a much better chance at bringing the series back to San Jose for Game 7.