SAN JOSE Lost in the shuffle of Thursdays game, in which the Sharks reunited second line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat was dominant in a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal, is that gritty forward Jamie McGinn continued his upward trend.
McGinn tallied a first period goal just 41 seconds after the Canadiens opened the scoring, jamming home a backhanded pass towards the net from Michal Handzus. It was just his third goal of the year, but the 6-1, 210-pound winger has been generating more and more scoring chances and physicality since a quiet first six weeks of the season.
Im just keeping things simple, and playing with confidence, he said on Friday. I know that the chances are there and the puck is bound to go in. Thats one of the things Im concentrating on is just keeping it simple, playing hard, and not giving their D any free outs and creating momentum for the team.
Todd McLellan mentioned earlier in the week how pleased he was with McGinns recent contributions. Although the third line hasnt generated a whole lot of offense up to this point, with just seven goals on the year, the coach senses a growing comfort level between McGinn, Handzus and Torrey Mitchell.
Credit 13-year NHL'er Handzus for helping in that regard.
Zeus is a very good pro, understands how that line needs to play, and he realizes the assets he has on either side of him, whether its Ginners grittiness or Mitches speed, said McLellan. Hes the glue on the line and keeps everything together.
Playing with a guy like Zeus makes things a lot easier, said McGinn. He controls things and slows things down, and keeps me under control, too. Ill try and go get the puck for him, and I have a habit sometimes of running out of position so its good when hes there an older player which knows the game and settles me down a little bit.
Handzus comes off as a fairly quiet reserved guy, but McGinn mentioned that they are constantly chatting off of the ice.
Yeah, all the time, he said. Hes really great, and were getting along great. We talked that maybe the chemistry wasnt there at the start of the year. It takes a little bit of time to get used to each other and know where each other are, so we feel pretty confident on the ice every shift. Hopefully, we start producing a lot more now.
McGinn may be the hardest player on the current Sharks roster to figure out. He began the 2010-11 season on the teams top line, but has bounced between the Sharks and their AHL affiliate in Worcester in each of his first three seasons as a pro.
He played seven games in the playoffs last spring, totaling one assist and 30 penalty minutes, before starting this season on the teams third line where he has been almost entirely.
McLellan admitted on Friday that the Sharks staff may not have done McGinn any favors in how it handled him last year, especially early, after he scored 10 goals in 59 games in 2009-10.
We have to take some of that responsibility. We started the year by putting him in a position where maybe we expected too much offensively, and got him mixed up, said the coach. By the time the middle of the year came around he was a confused player. He was listening to a lot of different people and everyone was trying to help him and had good intentions.
I think we all anticipated 10 goals was going to go to 15, and thats not the way it works for him, said McLellan.
So what did the coaching staff ask from him this September?
Hes using his speed and his size on the forecheck, hes going to the blue paint, and hes good defensively: those are the three things we asked him to do at the beginning of the year, and hes done a pretty good job with it.
The coach is showing confidence in me, and I cant let him or my teammates down with the more the minutes I get, said McGinn. I have to continue playing that way.
McLellan has been so pleased with McGinn lately, specifically the last three-and-a-half weeks, that hes considered moving him up to one of the top two lines. Its unlikely that McLellan will break up the Clowe-Couture-Havlat combination, though, especially after the success they had on Thursday night.
Theres been a temptation on our behalf to bump him up lines, but I think he fits very well where he is right now, said McLellan. Lets not mess him up. Hell have his share of numbers at the end of the year if he maintains that menu that we gave him.