Netcrashing: Should the Sharks play Ben Eager in Game 3? Staff

5/20/2011 2:19:18 AM

Many will point to the antics of Ben Eager as the main reason why the San Jose Sharks were blown out by the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2. After amassing 20 minutes in penalties, many hockey fans likely walked away from the game saying, 'Well, we won't see Eager in Game 3, even if he isn't suspended.'

No news was good news for the Sharks on Thursday as Eager didn't receive further discipline for his hit from behind on Daniel Sedin or his trash-talking of Roberto Luongo or his role in the fracas at the end of the game - or the culmination of his entire body of work. So should the Sharks keep him in the lineup for Game 3? After all, he's coming off a Stanley Cup win with the Chicago Blackhawks last season and no one can question his compete level on each and every shift.

Looking back, the turning point in Wednesday's game was the fight between Canucks blueliner Kevin Bieksa and Sharks winger Patrick Marleau - a one-sided affair that Marleau started and Bieksa finished.

Some would say it was that mismatch that got Eager's blood boiling and led to his undisciplined play. But could it not be said he was only trying to right a wrong he felt was done to his teammate (albeit unwisely)? Few in the game of hockey will look down on a player who takes a penalty in the act of defending his team's honour.

Others would say it was the Sharks' lacklustre play after the fight that allowed the Canucks to run amok in the third period, but Eager was one of few Sharks playing with any emotion. He was trying to do the job that head coach Todd McLellan has given him. Joe Thornton is a playmaker, Antti Niemi is a puck-stopper and Eager is an energy-producer, with both good and bad results.

"I'll take Ben Eager's game without the penalties any night," McLellan said after the game. "He was an honest guy, battled hard, skated, fought through everything."

However, some would say it was McLellan's fault for continually putting Eager back on the ice when he was too emotionally charged, only to take another penalty and reduce the Sharks' chances of a victory. If Thornton had a wrist injury, he wouldn't be forced to take faceoffs. If Dan Boyle couldn't shoot the puck, he may not play the point on the power play. If Eager is too hyped-up over an incident, perhaps he shouldn't see the ice for a while because he could be a detriment to the team until he cools down.

On the other side of the coin, could it be the Canucks that would prefer to see Eager in the lineup, giving their power play an opportunity to make this a short series? Many players and coaches will say some penalties are easier to kill off than others and the ones Eager took in Game 2 are the tough ones to escape unscathed.

Eager can be an effective player when he is playing on that proverbial edge. He's a fourth-line player who creates energy, not unlike Raffi Torres on the Canucks side, who also goes over the edge on occasion. It's a fine line and sometimes when you play with fire, you get burned. But do the positives outweigh the negatives in a long series?

So should the Sharks keep Ben Eager in the lineup for Game 3? As always, it's Your! Call.