By all accounts, Patrick Marleau suffered through an abysmal season last year, posting just 57 points – 19 goals and 38 assists – over 82 games, and finishing a team-worst minus-17 on the plus/minus. But, there were a few signs that the down season was more an aberration than proof positive that Father Time had caught up to the 17-year veteran.
First, Marleau’s 19 goals was just the fourth time in 16 full seasons (omitting the 2012-13 lockout season when he played only 48 games) that he hadn’t hit the 20-goal mark, and come on, he only missed it by one. But, perhaps most importantly, his “puck luck” ran dry, and he finished the season with a shooting percentage of 8.2 percent, the only time in his career in single digits and over five percentage points below his career average.
The Sharks and their fans hoped percentages would swing back to normal. So far this season, they have.
Through the first 34 games of this season, Marleau is converting at a 13.7 percent clip, and his 13 goals are third on the team, trailing only Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. Plus, Marleau has earned the complete trust of first-year head coach Peter DeBoer, who has rewarded Marleau’s work ethic with an average of 19:59 of ice time per game, with regular shifts on the power play (where Marleau has four goals and six assists).
Along the way this season, Marleau has also passed a career milestone, scoring his 1,000th point when he assisted on a Burns’ goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and if he stays healthy, Marleau will play in his 1,400 career game late in March.
The Sharks are in the thick of the NHL playoff race, currently sitting in the second position in the Pacific Division with 36 points, six back of the first place Los Angeles Kings, but only six points ahead the last-place Anaheim Ducks.
If the Sharks are to become a playoff team, they will have to finish in the top three of the Pacific division, and to do that, they will have to improve dramatically on home ice, where they’ve posted a 4-9-0 record so far this year. Marleau will also have to continue his comeback performance, particularly as the team awaits the return of both Logan Couture (injury) and Raffi Torres (suspension).
Marleau is not the Sharks’ most important player, and maybe never has been. But, in the scheme of the team, he is as important as anyone else, and as Marleau goes five-on-five and on special teams, the Sharks seem to go too.
Next up for the Sharks is a Monday night home game, when they host the Colorado Avalanche.
Photo Credit: Matt Kincaid/Getty Images
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