After a dismal start to the 2010-11 regular season, the San Jose Sharks have been on an absolute tear as of late, with contributions coming from all four lines – a consistency the Sharks have struggled with over the past few seasons.
Although the recent success can be attributed to many players stepping up their play both offensively and defensively, more specifically, former captain and current assistant captain Patrick Marleau has finally broke what seemed to be a career-low pace for points, while Joe Pavelski has set a career-high for himself this season.
In the last 10 games Marleau has notched a whopping 6 goals and 10 points, and since February 1, he has recorded 28 of his current 64 points which gives him the team-lead – one point ahead of Joe Thornton.
Out of his 33 goals on the season, 9 have been game-winners while 11 have come on the power play. (I wonder how many of his goals have been scored on a breakaway; give him some open space in the neutral zone and he will blow past the defenders and score nine-times-out-of-ten when one-on-one with an opposing goaltender.)
Although San Jose lost a 4-3 shootout decision to the Los Angeles Kings last night, Marleau picked up an assist on their first goal, while also scoring the Sharks’ second goal to make it 2-2.
After Dustin Brown answered right back with a late third period goal to regain the Kings lead, Marleau proved his heroics once again by potting his second goal of the game with just 3.2 seconds left in the third period to tie it up once again and bring the game into overtime, followed by a shootout.
Almost single-handedly, Marleau earned the Sharks one point against the division rival Kings who are nipping at their heels five points behind them in the Pacific Division. Although picking up the point was important, the win wasn’t overly crucial and to take the game into a shootout in those circumstances in certainly something the Sharks will take.
Many people have criticized many of the big-guns on San Jose for under-producing, but the lower-than-average totals of Thornton and Dany Heatley could be attributed to Todd McClellan’s high-demand for defensive responsibility from all players on the Sharks this season.
That being said, Marleau is back on track to post his usual 70 points, while many other Sharks have grown into a more offensive role on the team this year.
Pavelski has quietly taken over third place in team scoring with 17 goals, 43 assists and 60 points with 12 points in his last five games.
Not only does Pavelski provide success at the face-off dot for San Jose, but he has the ability to play in any type of situation and is continuing to mature as a playmaker (just one assist behind passing wizard, Joe Thornton).
Third-liner Torrey Mitchell has also found his scoring niche as of late with four goals and six assists in his past five, which account for much of his 19 points on the season.
It’s the right time of year for these types of players to start producing, and although the big three may not have quite the same success as they have in the past two seasons, they do have much more depth as six players have over 50 points so far.
It all started when Ryane Clowe (who appeared to be one of the only hard-working Sharks at the beginning of the season) called out his teammates for the lack of heart and dedication to a two-way game.
Since then, the Sharks have posted a winning record that has allowed them to climb their way up the Western Conference rankings into the third overall spot, while also taking over the lead of the Pacific Division.
With seven games left in San Jose’s regular season schedule, the Sharks seem to have more momentum than ever before at the approach of the post-season, although they will still have to prove to naysayers who believe they are playoff choke artists that they may have a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run this year.
Look for the Sharks to be a dangerous threat throughout the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.