Martin Havlat returned to the lineup last Thursday Night at the Shark Tank in San Jose in an important game against the Nashville Predators, which the Sharks won 2-1 in a shootout.
His return is exactly what the Sharks need to make that final playoff push and get them into the post-season.
In the 10 games before Havlat’s return, San Jose had gone (2-6-2), scored only 17 goals in that stretch, and had fallen out of a playoff spot. With Havlat in the lineup they are 18-7-3 compared to 18-14-7 without him.
In the three games since Havlat came back from injury they have beaten solid opponents in Nashville and Detroit before losing to Anaheim on Monday.
Havlat has made a significant impact on the scoresheet in his first three games back, tallying four points (3G, 1A), including the game winning goal in OT on Saturday against the Red Wings.
He has also added more of a threat in even strength play, since the Sharks now have two potent scoring lines for other teams to match up against. Havlat also balances out the power-play units, which will further improve San Jose’s 4th best PP in the league.
Secondary scoring is something the Sharks have lacked this season. Outside of their top four forwards, their highest goal scorer is Ryane Clowe who has 13. Logan Couture leads the team with 30, followed by Patrick Marleau, 27, and Joe Pavelski, 26, and Joe Thornton, 16.
After that top four there’s a substantial dropoff in production on the Sharks roster in large part due to Havlat’s 39-game absence with a hamstring injury.
They also lost production when they traded forward Jamie McGinn to Colorado for more depth and grit, acquiring Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi. They failed to address their need for a top forward at the deadline in hopes that Havlat’s return to the lineup will be the spark they need. So far they’ve been right.
Havlat was brought over from Minnesota in a deal that saw Dany Heatley leave town, which surprised more than a few people considering Heatley scored 65 goals over the past two seasons.
The Sharks hoped he could be expected to fill most, if not all of that goal-scoring void left by Heatley, however the oft injured Havlat hasn’t been able to make a significant impact on the team just yet.
Nevertheless he couldn’t have come back at a better time considering San Jose has had some difficulty lighting the lamp of late. The Sharks sit in 10th place in the West, one point behind eighth place Colorado with two games in hand and one point behind Dallas for the lead in the Pacific Division.
Their remaining schedule has some very important matchups. Of their last 10 games only one is against a non-playoff team (Anaheim) and eight are against Western Conference playoff teams. They control their own destiny, if they can string together a couple wins down the stretch and beat those teams that are ahead of them in the Western Conference race.
Having a top-6 forward like Martin Havlat return to your lineup for the playoff push is exactly what the Sharks needed and should tip the scales in San Jose’s favor and guide them into the playoffs for a 9th consecutive season.