SAN JOSE –- There are a few trains of thought when it comes to Sharks forward Patrick Marleau’s recent hot streak. The franchise’s all-time leading scorer has 10 points in his last eight games (6g, 4a), including a four-game goal streak, while his 10 goals on the season puts him only two behind Joe Pavelski for the team lead.
Hockey-wise, it would seem that a shift to the center position on the second line, with Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi, sparked him. Coach Pete DeBoer put Marleau there for the first game of the six-game road trip, and since then the Sharks are 7-2-0. Marleau’s production is second only to Pavelski’s 11 points over that span.
Marleau didn’t necessarily agree the position change has led to his name appearing frequently on the scoresheet, though.
“Not really, no,” he said. “Seems that way, I guess.”
Ward, who has been on Marleau’s line all season, said that the 36-year-old has more room to operate while skating in the middle.
“It just gives him more space. Obviously, he’s unbelievably fast,” Ward said. “For him to just get more space out there, as opposed to keeping him along the walls where he’s probably a little more restricted, I think has been good. He’s been good on draws, too, which has been helpful. He’s been opening up more opportunities.”
DeBoer has already said that he’ll move Logan Couture back to the second line center position when the latter is healthy enough to play, presumably with Marleau and Ward. That’s not a decision he has to make just yet, as Couture will be out for at least the next two games this weekend in Anaheim and against Tampa Bay.
“We’re not there yet so I haven’t really spent a lot of time on it, but [Marleau has] done a fantastic job filling in there,” DeBoer said. “When Logan gets back it will be a nice problem for us to have.”
The other event that coincided with Marleau’s uptick in production is the trade talk that surfaced in the first two weeks of November. Originally, Hockey Night in Canada reported that Marleau’s name was “out there” as potential trade bait on Nov. 7, and three days later, a report here that Marleau would accept a trade to three teams -– later confirmed by ESPN, with the addendum that the list could expand at some point -– only added fuel to the fire. That might suggest that Marleau is trying to make himself more attractive to potential suitors.
DeBoer, though, hasn’t concerned himself with any of that. He’s pleased with the way Marleau has gone about his business while still wearing a teal sweater.
“Even when we were going through that stuff coming out, nothing really changed here at ground level for us,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s how he handles himself, too. He just shows up every day, punches the clock and goes to work. That’s important for our group.”
“Until something changes, I’m down here and I go day-to-day. Every day he’s showing up ready to play and ready to compete, and leading. That’s all I’m worried about.”
Marleau indicated on Wednesday that last season’s difficult campaign was due at least in part to his health. He posted 19 goals, 57 points and a -17 rating while appearing in all 82 games.
Now, though, he’s feeling fine, and on pace to score 34 goals.
“Last year there were some outside factors and things like that, that kind of dampened it a little bit,” Marleau said. “Had a really good offseason, healthy and everything is probably the biggest difference.”
DeBoer has said from the start of training camp that he fully expected Marleau to have a rebound year. That expectation is coming to fruition.
“I knew his character and what he stood for as a player over his career,” DeBoer said. “I was very confident he’d bounce back. I think that’s what we’re seeing.
“I felt right from day one at camp he was engaged and ready to have a good year. Prior to the trade stuff that came out, during it or after, I think he’s been very consistent.”