SAN JOSE- Sharks fans have yet to forgive San Jose GM Doug Wilson for trading away fan favorite Jamie McGinn in a deal that saw Avalanche forwards Daniel Winnik and T. J. Galiardi shipped to teal town. That was Wilson’s big move to fix the penalty kill last season. While Winnik played well, the trade didn’t work. The Sharks were ousted in the first round in five games, Winnik walked to Anaheim in free agency and Galiardi hasn’t done much of anything with San Jose, that is, until recently.
At the beginning of this season Galiardi was playing relatively well but for the majority of this shortened campaign he’s been in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.
However, since sitting out San Jose’s most recent lopsided loss (a 5-2 drubbing in Los Angeles), Galiardi has been in the lineup for the past seven games. And in this stretch he has picked up four assists while establishing a third line role next to Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe. A former second round draft choice of the Avalanche in 2007, Galiardi is back to his agitating fore-checking style that made him an effective forward when he broke into the league in 2009-10.
But why now? Why is Galiardi all of a sudden playing better? The Sharks winger was very candid at the morning skate on Monday.
“It’s a weird thing, you know, I think we had that big loss in L. A., and just after that I had a talk with Jumbo [Joe Thornton] and Marty [Havlat] and we kind of just said ‘you know now’s the time, we need you and they said there’s no reason you should be a scratch on this team, you should be making a difference for us every night, and I think it just kind of flipped a switch, or something. Something happened and it came back and it’s been going well since and I think I’ve just focused on consistency, not just have one good game and one off [game] or something like that, just be good every night. And I think we’ve done a good job at that [lately]. Everyone knows we were struggling with third line scoring, and I think we’ve scored six of the last seven games with our third line.”
Pavelski has been centering Galiardi for the majority of these past seven games and he was more than happy to speak about T.J.’s play after his strong performance against Phoenix on Saturday.
“The last four games he’s been really good” commented Pavelski. “I’ve really enjoyed playing with him, he’s been fast, he’s been really fast out there. He’s brought a lot of speed to our line, created a lot of loose pucks in space for us.”
Over the last couple days both Clowe and Patrick Marleau have chimed in with their thoughts on if this is the Galiardi they remember from the 2010 playoff series with Colorado.
“Yeah definitely” responded Marleau. “When he’s skating and driving defensemen, and getting in the fore-check, that’s what you like to see. He skates so well, he can cause a lot of turnovers that way.”
“Yeah, he was probably playing his best hockey at that time in the playoffs” added Clowe. “He had an opportunity I think to play on the top two lines. [Right now] he’s playing great. I’ve liked how our line has played recently. He’s fit in really well.”
One play that stood out from the Phoenix game was with Galiardi on the fore-check while San Jose was in mid change. It looked as if the Coyotes had easy possession in their own end and would be able to break out without a problem but Galiardi reached in and deflected a D-to-D pass and was able to hold the zone while the change was completed. Perhaps as Marleau mentioned, fore-checking has been on T. J’s mind?
“[Fore-checking] has always been a big part of my game” confirmed Galiardi. “It’s a good way to get the puck back for your linemates. It’s definitely something I focus on, any time you can get more possession it’s a good thing.”
Head Coach Todd McLellan likes what he see’s but doesn’t like to compare the Galiardi of old to the Galiardi of now.
“We see it a little bit [the Galiardi of old], but I think sometimes it’s unfair to compare players with that much time frame elapsed” commented McLellan. “You know that’s four years ago now and the game was played a certain way at that time, so T. J. just has to play the way T. J.’s been playing over the last little bit. He’s energized, he gives the team a boost when he’s on the ice. That passion that he has is rubbing off on other players so if he can continue to do that then we’ve found a pretty good player.”
As Galiardi mentioned, San Jose has struggled most of the season with secondary scoring. The lack of such scoring has plummeted San Jose down near the bottom of the league in goals for despite having a roster chalk full of offensive weapons. But with Galiardi finding his game, it is yet another effective forward that the Sharks didn’t have going during those February woes.
Despite those woes, San Jose has had a capable roster all season long if they could just get the right guys in the lineup all playing the way they’re capable of.
And that’s exactly what they have going right now. Top-to-bottom everyone is playing their best hockey from Brent Burns, to Marty Havlat to Tommy Wingels to Scott Gomez, to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, to Antti Niemi and even T. J. Galiardi.
It’s no surprise the Sharks are riding a four game winning streak into Monday’s home tilt with Vancouver.
For more on the Sharks follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch