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Friday, February 3, 2017

Historic Night for the San Jose Sharks - The Long Road to Goal 500 for Patrick Marleau

Patrick Marleau
Drumjeff215 at en.wikipedia
[CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
The San Jose Sharks have been working hard all season to continue to prove that winning the Western Conference Championship in 2016 wan not simply a lucky break or a fluke for the team. There has been a lot of news coverage of the Sharks this season, most of it has been focused on Brent Burns and his performance as one of the top scoring defensemen in the league.  The team has overall been performing well so far this season, and have maintained a playoff position throughout the season often staying in the 1st place slot in the division.  Last night's game was no exception. However the big name last night for a change was Patrick Marleau, sometimes referred to as Mr. Shark.

Marleau has been with the sharks since his initial NHL draft in 1997 and has historically been an important offensive force for the Sharks.  He was known for his consistency in scoring he had 30 or more goals in 7 of his last 10 seasons.  Unfortunately in the last few years his production has tapered off noticeably.  Up until the week before the All-Star break Marleau had only 8 goals in nearly half a season.  Then on 1/23 he had his 4 goal night against the Avalanche bringing him within as few as 3 shots of his 500th goal.  There was speculation that Marleau would hit 500 in his next game against the Jets the following night, but I predicted that as highly unlikely at the time.  My prediction was that Marleau would hit 500 in February.  He did manage to get point 498 that night so things were still looking great for getting to the milestone goal by the end of January.  Sadly in the Sharks next game against the Oilers the whole team fell flat, losing that match 4-1.  The only Sharks goal came from Logan Couture, though Marleau did get the assist on that one.  It was at that point that I was afraid that the 4 goal night from the beginning of the week was just a flash in the pan, and that Marleau may again slip into the background to be overshadowed once again by Burns and Pavelski.  Marleau's last 2 seasons have been among his worst performances in his 20 years in Teal.  Last season he had only 25 goals and 48 points even with the team making it all the way into the final round of play of the Stanley Cup in post season.  In 2015-16 he had only 19 goals and 57 points by season end.  With these two comparatively dismal years in mind I was concerned that my prediction of Marleau getting to goal 500 by February might have been wishful thinking, even though he was so close.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised when in the next game against the Blackhawks on 1/31 Marleau was able to put away goal 499 six minutes into the 2nd period of play.  His goal was the first of the game by either team, and again I became hopeful that he would prove me wrong and hit 500 before the end of January.  Alas that was not in the cards.  The team did go on to win the game 3-1 with an additional 2 goals scored by Hertl, in his first game back from IR, and Pavelski putting away his 17th goal of the season.  It was last night that Patrick Marleau finally put puck number 500 into the back of the net!  Once again Marleau opened the scoring for the game against Vancouver in a power play goal just before the half way point of the 1st period.  After the game when interviewed Marleau was quoted as saying, "that'll do getting it right away!"  He was also very gracious when speaking to the press giving his linemates, Pavelski and Burns credit for setting him up for the scoring opportunity beautifully, and expressing his gratitude at playing with such talented teammates.   This is one of the reasons I have always liked Marleau as a player and as an individual off the ice as well.  He sees the whole team as a part of the success of any single player, especially himself, and makes a point of praising his teammates skills and efforts even in speaking about his own achievements.

Patrick Marleau is the 45th player in NHL history to reach the 500 career goal mark!  It took him 20 seasons of play and 1463 games but he finally made it to 500.  He is second behind only Ron Francis (1533 games) in the longest time to reach the milestone, but only a relatively few players have ever made it so it is still an achievement worth celebrating.  In addition Marleau mad all 500 goals as a San Jose Shark.  He is only the 17th player in league history to accomplish 500 goals all with a single organization!

After last night Marleau is now at 19 goals in the season at 52 games in, this is the same number as he made in all 82 games he played in 2014-15.  In fact he has only been averaging 22 goals a season over the last two years.  It is my hope that this will be just a beginning for the season, and that we will be able to look forward to many more Patrick Marleau goals before the end of the season and on into the playoffs as well.  With 30 games to go in the regular season it is conceivable that Marleau could even make it back up to a 30 goal season, which we have not seen with any consistency from him since 2012.  I think that this is probably a long shot for Marleau given his most recent seasons of performance, but it is definitely possible and I for one would love to see him do it.  Also if he can continue to put numbers on the board consistently it will certainly help with negotiating a new contract since he is going UFA on July 1st if the Sharks do not re-sign him before then.  I still hope to see him play at least one or two more seasons in Teal before retirement.  Congratulations to Patrick Marleau on scoring goal # 500 last night!

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