NHL Playoffs 2012: Changing Up Lines Is Only Answer for San Jose Sharks

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NHL Playoffs 2012: Changing Up Lines Is Only Answer for San Jose Sharks
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks are just one game behind the St. Louis Blues in the best-of-seven series, but then why does it seem like the Sharks are in desperation mode and struggling to stay in this series?

San Jose has been outplayed in near every facet of the game since Game 1, and even in that game the Blues were the victor in three of the five periods that night in St. Louis.

But with the Sharks struggling to get even the smallest things going for them—especially in Game 3—the team now needs to change things up because the Blues have entirely figured them out, and Sharks coach Todd McLellan knows that.

"We can do some small things in all areas of the game to get better," McLellan said. "We can look at the line combinations, potential lineup changes. There's a lot of things we can do."

Forget the abysmal penalty kill or inability to solidify the puck in the Blues' zone, the Sharks need to score goals and it starts with the top lines.

McLellan at least sounded like he understood what he needed to do before the crucial Game 4 on Thursday in San Jose.  The top lines are clearly not producing, the Blues' defense has them zoned in and San Jose can do nothing about it.

Then how about throwing them a curveball and changing up the lines?

At Wednesday's morning skate, it seemed like McLellan was thinking in that direction.  These were the lines on the ice then.

Couture-Thornton-Pavelski
Clowe-Marleau-Havlat
Winnik-Handzus-Mitchell
Winchester-Desjardins-Wingels

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Anything, really, will help the situation the Sharks are in right now.  St. Louis knows exactly which move is going to be made on the ice at this moment, and the Sharks seem to have no answer.

The only solution: Change up the lines, change up the chemistry and disperse the talent that has not seemed so talented.

Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski have a combined total of zero points in this series vs. the Blues, and it was not until Game 3 that captain Joe Thornton scored his first points of the series.  The top line is clearly not playing up to the expectations we placed on them before the series began, and something needs to be changed in that area.

Two lines come to mind when changing up the starters for Game 4, which we can expect McLellan to do—the top line and third line.

The combined totals of Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski are beyond disappointing this deep into the series with the Blues, and it seems the trio will never work come playoff time, especially against the Blues' defense which has them totally locked in.

Can we see Marleau leaving the top line for Game 4?

It is likely, but we could also see Pavelski joining Ryane Clowe's second line just to switch something up on Thursday and show the Blues a different look.

In the same way, the third line of T.J. Galiardi, Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell is simply not working out.

Despite the great idea of having one of the fastest lines ever to lace them up for the Sharks out on the ice, they produce only that.  There is no shut-down defense or overwhelming offense that comes with this line.  It is just a gritty trio of players that can bide some time on the ice while the top two lines rest for their next shift.

The only problem dividing them up is that it would mean dividing up the fourth line, and they have played as good hockey as you can expect from a fourth line the NHL playoffs.

McLellan has some decisions to make before Game 4.

It will be up to him whether he wants to commit to such big moves or stick with what the team knows.  However, what the team knows and is used to right now is exactly what the Blues know they can beat.  

If the right moves are not made for the Sharks, we could see the Sharks struggling to pick up another win in this series.

Follow me on Twitter @ScottSemmler22

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