It’s been a good week so far for the Sharks, who swept a two-game, back-to-back road trip through Colorado and Winnipeg, have the NHL’s longest active winning streak at six, and sit atop the Pacific Division standings with just one game left before the All-Star break. Here are our three biggest takeaways from the two wins (since the Tommy Wingels trade prevented us from doing one of these yesterday)…
1 – Marleau making history
Patrick Marleau is the talk of the NHL right now, becoming the first player in 20 years to score four goals in one period on Monday and following it up with a late game-winner on Tuesday. It’s a bit hard to believe that more than halfway through the regular season he’s second on the team in goals at 17, one more than Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. He’s also just two measly goals away from becoming the 45th player in NHL history to score 500.
It’s worth pointing out, too, that Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg was the first in which Marleau actually started on the Couture line. For a guy that’s played up and down the lineup, and considering how much Pete DeBoer has shuffled his lines this season, that’s surprising. These are two guys that have spent a ton of time together in recent years, including the last three rounds of playoffs last season, but it’s almost as if DeBoer was doing everything in his power to keep them apart this year.
The common question I’ve seen lately is, does this make it more likely Marleau’s contract will be extended? I still think that’s more doubtful than probable, but if Marleau would be amenable to a one-year deal around the $3 million range, it might be worth it. Keep in mind this is a motivated player right now that wants to extend his career, wherever it may be. He tends to play his best hockey in contract years, too. If I were the Sharks, I wouldn’t do anything until the season was over.
2 – Young legs give Sharks a boost
The Sharks are an older team pushing through the most difficult part of their schedule. Tuesday’s game was their seventh in 11 days, and their last three games (in four nights) were all in different time zones.
(This is why the word “asinine” has been thrown around when talking about this season’s compressed schedule. But I digress…)
DeBoer mentioned late last week that it was incumbent on the players with younger, fresher legs to make an impact as the Sharks grind it out. That happened the last two games, as guys like Melker Karlsson, Ryan Carpenter, Brenden Dillon, David Schlemko and Mikkel Boedker all notched at least one point in the two wins. Even Barclay Goodrow, on his first shift in his first game of the season, drew a penalty in the first period against Winnipeg that helped lead to Brent Burns’ power play goal.
“We knew they were desperate considering where they're sitting, so it was going to take a whole team effort and we got some good contributions,” DeBoer told reporters after the game. “We stuck Carpenter and Goodrow in the lineup tonight for some fresh legs because of the schedule, and I thought our fourth line gave us some real good minutes."
3 – Carpenter earning a full-time spot
One more thought on Carpenter, and I mentioned this Tuesday night on Sharks Postgame Live – I think he has a chance to stay in the lineup even after Tomas Hertl returns (which I’m told could very well be on Thursday against Edmonton). Chris Tierney hasn’t had that breakout year that I thought might be coming, and if Carpenter has the ability eat up some more minutes on the penalty kill, Tierney could be the latest guy that finds himself looking over his shoulder.
If Hertl does in fact play on Thursday, it would probably make the most sense to put him on the left wing of the top line, move Karlsson back to the fourth line, and remove Goodrow. Carpenter, who has one point in four of his last five NHL games, including the primary assist on Marleau’s game-winner on Tuesday, has earned a chance to stay in the lineup for at least one more night.