In a slightly less chaotic affair than most Sharks and Ducks contests, the San Jose Sharks earned a 2-0 victory in their home opener on Saturday night. Patrick Marleau and Martin Jones led the way with the former scoring twice and the latter posting his first shutout as a Shark. Despite the low-scoring game and lack of penalties (just one power play for each side), it was yet another entertaining game between the two California rivals. For Sharks fans, there is a lot to like about Marleau’s two-goal game. It wasn’t just the goals, but how he scored them.
There is an old saying in hockey, “they don’t ask how pretty, they just ask how many.” While it is true that all goals count the same no matter how much they wow the crowd, the manner in which a player scores is still important in analyzing performance. A player can have a two-goal game and still actually not play that well. That wasn’t the case this time around though. Marleau scored twice and looked damn good doing it. In fact there are three key takeaways from his performance against the Ducks that could be early indications of a bounce-back season for No. 12.
1. Moving His Feet
While neither of Marleau’s goals were direct results of his well-known skating speed, a number of his other chances were created by using this asset to his advantage. Last season during an off-year Marleau got away from what makes him best and that is attacking the game. Easier said than done of course to keep skating all the time, especially when losing confidence with the bad luck he had last year. A fresh season, and Marleau looks to be moving well to start the year.
2. Both Goals Scored at Even Strength
Despite a disappointing year last season Marleau still managed 19 goals and 57 points. Pretty good player card numbers for a down year, eh? The problem though is that Marleau simply wasn’t scoring a whole lot at even strength. Marleau scored just 12 goals at even strength last season after scoring 20 in 2013-14. Twenty-four of his 57 points (or 42%) came on the man advantage compared to 23 out of 70, (or 32%) in 13-14. The down year in points and even strength scoring saw Marleau finish with a minus-17 rating. Therefore, getting him off to a good start while five-aside is big for his confidence. San Jose will likely have a strong season this year if Marleau can get back to scoring more frequently at evens. He is plenty capable of it, and Saturday was a nice start in this regard.
3. Driving the Net
Those who know me personally, or have followed my Sharks coverage over the years, are aware that I’m actually more of a Marleau critic than a fan. One of the reasons why is that he doesn’t play to his size. Marleau is listed at six-foot-two, 220 pounds but despite a lethal combination of size and speed, he often slams on the breaks instead of driving the net. Against Anaheim on Saturday he was attacking the net with regularity. On one opportunity he used his speed to drive the defender wide and then cut in sharply for a grade-A scoring chance from just outside the crease. In the third period his insurance marker came driving the net as well. This time, after a nice head fake like he was going to pull up and cut inside, Marleau continued down the wing before scoring on a wraparound.
Obviously just two games into the season is too early to really get excited about anything. There simply haven’t been enough games played to start analyzing any positive or negative trends. That said, through two games, the early signs are positive for Marleau’s rebound campaign.