November 25th, 2009, 1:14 pm
Tonight, with the Hawks in town, both teams will either be pining for missing players, or welcoming them back into the fold. The biggest story is the return of Marian Hossa, who hasn’t played a game yet this year after having shoulder surgery. That top line of Kane Toews and Hossa will be something to watch. Can the Sharks new third line, or a defensive minded second line (Marleau, Pavs and Malhotra) keep that line in check? In addition to the missing Blake, Seto, and Shelley, another guy the Sharks might be without is Dan Boyle, who Pollak said is “still possible” to play. That would be a huge loss for the Sharks and their #3 ranked power play. Mitchell is back here, but not supposed to start until the weekend (ibid). Is that the only time ibid has ever been used in a hockey blog post? I’m trying to break new ground here.
Despite thinking that team is chock full of offensive weapons, the fact is Chicago’s defense is the more impressive. They’ve allowed only 2.14 goals per game, good for first in the league. Sharks are third at 2.36. Their offense certainly isn’t bad, 6th, while the Sharks are 4th. #1 in offense? Atlanta. Yeah, go figure. They have nine guys with 10 points or more.
Anyway, the point is the Chicago Blackhawks are as close statistically to the Sharks as any other team in the league. They are even 1-2 in faceoff percentage. Two divergences- PK (Sharks 1st, Chicago 9th), and shots. San Jose is middle of the pack in both shots for and against, while the Hawks are near the top in shots, and #1 in shots allowed.
Also like the Sharks is their interesting free agent situation. There were big rumors last week that the Triumvirate of Toews, Kane, and Duncan Keith had renewal contracts in the works, but this week is quiet. If they make it happen, could that be a template for Doug Wilson in trying to sign Pavs, Seto, and Marleau/Nabby? I’m using the slash because I still think only one of those two can be kept.
I suppose this would be the time where I would use terms like “measuring stick” and “statement game” and all that. I’ll just take the win.
Two notes: The podcast will be recorded and uploaded after the game tonight. Didn’t seem right to talk about the Sharks before they faced off against the second best team in the West. Also, if you’re looking for a ego killer, try this trivia contest. I got only 51, and there were several more I should have gotten.