Wednesday, February 1, 2012

San Jose Sharks: 3 Players Poised for A Big Second Half of the Season

Their opponent was the 13-31-6 Columbus Blue Jackets, but the San Jose Sharks' game on Tuesday night had just about everything a fan could want in the first game back from the All-Star Break.

Scoring, numerous fights, defense, goaltending.

For a team that has struggled to get on a consistent roll this season, the Sharks looked like this was going to be the start of something we had not seen so far in 2011-12. Credit that to a whole bunch of Sharks: The big-name players, Antti Niemi, Jim Vandermeer? There was no wrong answer on Tuesday night.

Again, it was just against the Blue Jackets, but we can clearly see who is gearing up for a good second half run and who is not.

Here are three players poised for a big second half of the season.

Jamie McGinn

I am not sure anyone was expecting 10 goals from McGinn all season, let alone one game past the All-Star break.

He has definitely filled the role as the hard-hitting annoyance skating madly across the ice. But adding an offensive mentality to boot sure makes McGinn look awfully good these days.

For how long many have waited to see this player reach his full potential in this league, we may be seeing somewhat of a start this season. His 10 goals and eight assists are more than expected, but it is the plus/minus of +10 that has McLellan relying on him to make plays when possible.

Asking for another 10 goals out of him the rest of the season may be stretching it just a bit, but we should see that plus/minus continue to increase if the Sharks go on their usual second half run up the Western Conference standings.

Jim Vandermeer

Vandermeer's role with the Sharks is still really blurry. Usually, we see him blocking shots or getting physical on the boards on defense, but on Monday McLellan positioned Vandermeer on the offensive fourth line. It worked.

Vandermeer was physical and was much like adding a third defenseman out on the ice. He can have an offensive mindset if asked to, but McLellan said we will probably be seeing him out there on the fourth line only when the Sharks need an extra chippy hard-hitting player against a physical opponent.

If Vandermeer keeps producing when he gets his time on the ice, we should be seeing a lot more of him in the second half of this season -- both on offense and defense.

Patrick Marleau

Heading into this season, the over/under of goals scored by Patrick Marleau was 40. He currently has 18 and will need to raise his play if he is to get his second career 40-goal season. This time last season, he had the same 18 goals and finished the season just about as expected with 37 goals.

However, with Martin Havlat returning within the next month from injury, Marleau's stock will only rise. Also, any trades for a winger made by GM Doug Wilson will only contribute to Marleau's offensive touches on the ice. With Havlat returning, we are sure to see that top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Marleau return to form.

With Havlat in the line-up on the second line, Marleau put up 10 goals in the first two months of the season. When Havlat went down with injury, Marleau had a terrible offensive December (3 goals) and the team played awful because of it.

When Havlat returns in early to mid-March, Marleau will see more pressure applied by their opponents towards that relentless line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Havlat, and see more opportunities come the way of his first line.

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