Barracuda Power Play Absorbs Heed’s Loss, Fuels Win Over Moose
WINNIPEG — A question about the Barracuda power play’s ability to absorb defenseman Tim Heed’s absence produced a snarl from head coach Roy Sommer three weeks ago.
On Friday, he responded to the same query with a toothy smile.
After going 2-for-18 in four games without Heed in January, the Barracuda’s sixth-ranked power play stepped it up at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Friday, scoring three goals without its quarterback en route to a 4-1 victory over the Manitoba Moose.
“We lost the bomb, but we picked up a pop gun,” Sommer said. “Heed’s missed. He’s like Burnzie (Brent Burns), you take him off the Sharks, they’re going to miss that. But someone else stepped in and got it done and we’re going to need that until they get healthy up there.”
The “pop gun” that Sommer was referring to is defenseman Patrick McNally, who jumped onto the second power play unit and picked up primary assists on the Barracuda’s first two power play goals.
McNally helped the Barracuda break a 1-1 tie at 17:21 of the second by simply following his coach’s orders and getting the puck to the net. Barclay Goodrow, who Sommer referred to as the, “best frontman in the American Hockey League”, scored his third goal in as many games by redirecting McNally’s point shot in front of the net.
“We’ve moved him in and out of the power play all year,” Sommer said, referring to McNally. “His biggest problem was not getting pucks through — he got pucks through tonight and look what happened.”
Although Heed, who’s on recall with the Sharks in the wake of Dylan DeMelo’s wrist injury, leads the team with 18 points on the power play this season (7g, 11a), Goodrow said the team should still be potent with the man advantage if it sticks to its game.
“Our PP goes well when we just try to get pucks to the net and don’t get too fancy,” he said. “Heeder does a phenomenal job of getting pucks to the net and obviously his shot speaks for itself. But if we simulate that mindset, the power play should be fine.”
After setting up the first power play goal with a simple play, McNally flashed his speed and skill on the team’s second tally with the man advantage at 13:11 of the third.
McNally gift-wrapped John McCarthy’s eighth goal of the season, beating the Moose’s flatfooted defense by flying down the left wing, circling the net and feeding the captain in the slot for a look at a wide-open net.
“If Heed stays up, I hope I can keep playing well with the opportunity,” McNally said. “But we’d love to have Timmy back, he’s got the best shot in the league.”
The Barracuda power play added one more goal 2:42 later when McCarthy found the net again, burying a pass from Barclay Goodrow.
But it wasn’t just on the power play where the Barracuda found a way to absorb the loss of a key player. They produced 40 shots on goal, and all four lines managed to sustain zone time despite the absence of Ryan Carpenter, who’s now holding down the Sharks fourth line center job.
Without Carpenter, Heed and Goodrow, the Barracuda looked lost during 7-2 loss to the Ontario Reign on Jan. 21.
But Nikita Jevpalovs stepped into Carpenter’s spot on the McCarthy-Goodrow line and produced two assists on Friday. Recently acquired forward Buddy Robinson acquitted himself well on the third line with Rourke Chartier and Adam Helewka. The fourth line of Jon Martin, Colin Blackwell and Zach Stortini drew the Moose’s first penalty and the top line of Danny O’Regan, Nikolay Goldobin and Marcus Sorensen produced the Barracuda’s first goal at 12:09 of the first.
“It speaks to our depth,” McNally said. “I think everyone here knows that with depth comes a challenge to get in the lineup, so when you do get in there, everyone’s really working hard and wanting to prove why they should be in there.”
Goldobin recorded his fourth goal in three games after he burned past defenseman Kevin Czuczman on a pass from Sorensen and flipped a backhand over goalie Eric Comrie’s left pad.
The Moose scored their lone goal 41 seconds later when Quinton Howden redirected a Patrice Cormier shot in front.
Fresh off his performance in the All-Star Classic, Grosenick stopped 27 of 28 shots in the contest, including a sprawling stick save on Cormier late in the third.
“He’s the man. He’s in the zone,” Sommer said. “When that guy’s in the zone, you’ve got to ride him.”