Can a Three Finned Attack Get the San Jose Sharks Out of Their Slump?

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IDecember 12, 2009

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 11:  Dany Heatley #15 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by teammates including Patrick Marleau #12 after Heatley scored a goal against the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion on December 11, 2009 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When the San Jose Sharks traded for Dany Heatley this offseason, the feeling around the Bay Area was that while paired up with Joe Thornton, the two superstars would be impossible to defend.

However, the overloaded top-line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley hasn't produced much winning as of late. The Sharks just completed a 1-1-3 home-stand and scored just nine goals in their last four games.

Over the span of the past four games where the Sharks are 0-1-3, the top line has contributed just eight points between them. Compare that to earlier in the season when the top line of Thornton, Heatley, and Setoguchi posted a combined 13 points in just two games.

Clearly, the Sharks' top scorers are capable of scoring at a much higher clip but the problem is that San Jose has started relying too much on their big guns.

Solid all around play from all four lines is something that has been missing over the home-stand.

Considering that the impressive play from the third line featuring Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer has tailed off as of late, spreading the talent around might be a wise move.

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Last season the Sharks also hit a 1-1-3 skid, after struggling on an east coast road trip. At the time, Marleau was playing with Thornton and Setoguchi but due to injuries at the center position, Marleau was asked by head coach Todd McLellan to center the third line.

The change in lineup structure sparked the Sharks to a convincing 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers where Marleau carried the team with two impressive second period tallies.

In fact, I wrote an article after that game stating how the "three-finned" attack helped the Sharks get back on track.

San Jose's three "fins" referred to Marleau, Thornton and Joe Pavelski each centering their own line and wouldn't you know it all three of them scored. Along with Marleau's two goals, Thornton and Pavelski rounded out the Sharks scoring.

Now these combinations didn't last very long as they eventually returned to their more normal set up but the change sparked the Sharks to a four game winning streak where they out-scored their opponents 12-5.

So why can't lightning strike twice?

With Healtey now on the roster, and the Sharks' top three forwards clearly defined more than ever, putting each one on their own line might just get the Sharks out of this slump.

Instead of the current forward set-up:





How about the Sharks mix things up a bit?





Not only would giving Thornton, Heatley and Marleau their own line spread out the scoring but bringing Couture back up on the forth line would add some speed to that group which the Sharks have been lacking.

Each one of these potential lines has the ability to skate at a high speed and moving their feet quickly should be focal point going into tonight's game in Phoenix.

The Coyotes will clearly be looking to shut down the Sharks through the neutral zone and spreading the speed and talent over three different lines will make it a tougher test on the Phoenix defense.

Hopefully Todd McLellan is thinking of making a similar shake up because the Sharks are in danger of falling out of first place in the division.