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Sharks leaning on roster changes
Handzus and Winchester get a shot at solving St Louis
4/18/12 - By Mike Lee -

After failing to stop anyone on the penalty kill, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan appears to be ready to make a change for Game 4 on Thursday night. If practices are any indication, T.J. Galiardi and Dominic Moore appear headed to the press box. Brad Winchester and Michael Handzus will make their first appearances of the playoffs, as the Sharks try to jump start things against the St Louis Blues.

Winchester won't see much, if any, time on the penalty kill, but Handzus many be an option for McLellan as the Sharks try to even the series at HP Pavilion. Both Galiardi and Moore were acquired with the intent of helping to shore up a porous penalty kill, that was the 2nd worst in the league during the regular season, but they've not helped in the first three games of the Sharks series with the Blues.

The Sharks 61.5% penalty killing efficiency is 14th of the 16 teams currently participating in the Stanley cup Playoffs. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils (both with 40% conversion rates) are worse. The Penguins have surrendered a remarkable 9 power play goals on only 15 chances. The Devils have 6 power play goals on 10 chances.

The insertion of Handzus and Winchester is less about improving the penalty kill and more about jump starting an offense that's been forced to play catch-up in every game of the series. The Blues have stifled the Sharks offense with their overall team speed, making San Jose look downright sluggardly.

Putting in two paper weights like Handzus and Winchester doesn't exactly sound like the best way to address that issue, but after getting shut out in Game 2 and trailing by three goals in Game 3, the Sharks are looking to establish a pulse on offense .

Regardless of the changes, San Jose needs to do something to generate a win in Game 4. Should they lose, it's unlikely that they're season will extend beyond the series return to St Louis on Saturday. The Sharks just aren't a big comeback team when it comes to overcoming playoff deficits.

Given all the holes that have been exposed in the Sharks game this season, miracles just don't seem to be in the cards.

Any semblance of exploiting the Blues post-season inexperience has gone by the wayside. Shutting out the Sharks in Game 2 was proof that the Blues aren't on edge. Their win in Game 3 completely debunked the theory that St Louis can be overwhelmed by the bright lights of playoff hockey.

The Blues have looked like the seasoned team, out-classing the Sharks in several areas that have historically been strong points.

The Blues have owned a slight edge in the faceoff circle, winning just under 51% of the draws in the series so far. They've out chanced the Sharks, blocked more shots, and are winning the giveaway / takeaway battle. The most surprising statistical disparity comes on the shot clock. San Jose ranked 2nd in the league shots this season, but have been outshot by the Blues in 2 of the first three games in the series.

Handzus should help with the faceoff issue, but the Blues drone-like approach to snuffing out offensive chances is something the Sharks will need t overcome collectively. Getting the puck into the Blues zone, then holding that zone is the first step. St Louis attacks the puck, rather than sit back and form defensive obstacles. That's taken the Sharks off their game all season, so it's a matter of adjusting . That unfortunately may be the biggest Sharks weakness.

Adapting is not a strong suit of McLellan and his team. San Jose has too much faith in the system that got them into the post season in the first place. The Sharks don't typically make modifications to their game plan, which is one of the reasons St Louis may have had so much success against San Jose. They know exactly what's coming, and the defensive system that Ken Hitchcock has implemented, has San Jose figured out.

McLellan needs to make more than roster changes if he wants a chance at reaching the second round.


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