Patrick Marleau

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in impressive 4-2 win over Ducks

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in impressive 4-2 win over Ducks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- It starts with one.

The Sharks (22-25-4) know they have a long way to go to get back in the playoff picture, so they're not looking too far ahead. They kept their focus on the task at hand Monday night at SAP Center, a divisional matchup against the long-time rival Anaheim Ducks (19-25-5), and handled business to the tune of a 4-2 win.

In both team's first game coming out of the All-Star break, both sides clearly benefitted from the time off, although San Jose seemed to get back in a groove slightly quicker, building a 2-0 advantage less than five minutes into the contest. Although the Ducks threatened at times throughout the game, the Sharks never relinquished the lead.

It wasn't a perfect game for San Jose by any means, but the team did enough to earn a much-needed victory. The rivals combined for 59 hits in the physical battle, while Aaron Dell was solid once again in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots.

Here are three takeaways from what the Sharks hope is the first of many wins in the second "half":

Strong start

Just as the Sharks started the post-All-Star-break portion of the schedule on the right foot, so too did they begin Monday night's game. From the opening faceoff, San Jose exhibited a jump that had been lacking the last time it took the ice. The Sharks had scored one goal over their previous two games, both losses. They doubled that total within the first five minutes Monday night.

San Jose appeared to follow the lead of its fourth line, which did precisely what it was supposed to do to get Team Teal on the board. Just under two minutes into the contest, the fourth line forced an offensive-zone turnover off a face-off. The puck found its way to Joel Kellman, who threw it at the net and had his shot deflected in by Stefan Noesen for the Sharks' first goal.

A couple minutes later, it was the third line's turn. After dumping the puck in on the forecheck, Dylan Gambrell was able to work it over to Patrick Marleau in the corner, who passed it in the direction of Marcus Sorensen, who was parked in front of the net. The pass was deflected by a Ducks defenseman, but fortunately for San Jose, it bounced right back to Marleau, who promptly lit the lamp.

Noesen and Marleau helped get the Sharks off to the start they needed, and neither was done scoring on the evening.

The ageless wonder

San Jose took the 2-0 lead into the second period, but saw it cut in half on Ondrej Kase's short-handed goal just over nine minutes into it. Anaheim had all the momentum at that point, and appeared poised to tie things up before long. Marleau had other ideas.

With less than five minutes remaining in the second period, The Ducks' defense misplayed a faceoff in San Jose's defensive zone. Marleau got behind them, and that was that.

Marleau didn't just get to the puck first. He retrieved it, opened up a lead and then padded the Sharks' advantage. He simply looked like the fastest player on either team Monday night, and after watching that goal, he still might rank among the fastest skaters in the entire league. Those other skaters, though? They're not 40 years old.

Marleau is. He has been better this season than he was in the last, and at this rate, there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to unseat Gordie Howe as the NHL's all-time leader in games played next year.

Special-team problems

In addition to Kase's short-handed goal, Anaheim's Nick Ritchie notched a power-play goal late in the third, and while it didn't change the final outcome, it did continue a concerning trend for San Jose. Including Monday's win, the Sharks have now allowed at least one power-play or short-handed goal in each of their last five games.

It's one thing to have an ineffective power play. It's entirely another to be a defensive liability, as well. San Jose has been able to rely on it's top-ranked penalty kill all season long, but clearly, even that is in a bit of a downspell. If the Sharks are going to do the unlikely and make it back to the postseason, the special teams dont just have to be better; they have to be special. Right now, they're a far cry from that.

Would Sharks really consider trading Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau?

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USATSI

Would Sharks really consider trading Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau?

The unexpected struggles of this Sharks season have presented an unexpected dilemma that inevitably will reach a resolution in less than one month.

Seeing as the Sharks are not well-positioned for the playoffs, would San Jose consider trading Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau to a Stanley Cup frontrunner as a professional courtesy to the future Hall of Famers?

The premise initially is jarring but starts to gain reason with time. 

Thornton and Marleau each have stated they aren’t yet thinking about this potential situation, which is understandable, honorable and believable.  

However, there are some elements to consider before the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline.

Emotional attachment in San Jose

When Marleau departed for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, many felt there was zero chance he’d ever play a game again for San Jose, which made his return even more storybook. The “against all odds” theme also exists with Joe Thornton.  

The two knee injuries he has overcome in recent seasons would have ended most NHL careers for players approaching 40 years old. Simply put, this reunion of 1997’s first two draft picks was highly unlikely and it would be unfortunate to end it under these circumstances. Keeping them for sentimental reasons, though, actually seems selfish, opposed to letting them chase a dream.

The difficulty of finding a trade partner

San Jose wouldn’t likely ask for the world in return if they moved Marleau or Thornton, who are both free agents this summer. But they also would expect to receive fair market compensation for what might seem like the ultimate “final pieces” to any Stanley Cup contender. Negotiations might not be so simple.  

There’s also the difficulty of lining them up with the best suited clubs to win it all, which seems like a group of around eight to 10 teams right now, instead of only three or four.

It has to be their decisions

Despite however they’re quoted in the media, is this something Thornton or Marleau would even want to entertain? They have families. They’re established in San Jose. But they also don’t have unlimited chances for a Cup, no matter what their hearts desire.  

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Do they want that opportunity, even if it means leaving San Jose? Those decisions should be made solely on their individual preference. They would need to be 100 percent behind it.

Stepping outside comfort zones

No matter what, the next four weeks are going to be different. When is the last time San Jose has been sellers approaching the deadline? And who knows if Thornton and Marleau would be the biggest departures?

 Just the thought of Thornton skating in a Boston sweater again, or possibly Marleau joining a speedy Colorado team is enough to cramp the brain. But if it means helping these men attempt the literal one thing that doesn’t exist on their resume, it would be hard to deny the opportunity.

Three things going right for Sharks in otherwise frustrating season

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AP

Three things going right for Sharks in otherwise frustrating season

It's far easier to point out the main things that have gone wrong for the Sharks this season than it is to identify things that have gone right. Alas, that's what happens when you're in the midst of your worst season in more than 15 years.

Through the first 50 games of the season, San Jose has been inconsistent as can be. The Sharks already have four losing streaks of at least four games (and are one loss away from a fifth), but also put together a stretch in which they won 11 of 13. It's that inconsistency that ultimately forced general manager Doug Wilson to make the tough decision to move on from former head coach Peter DeBoer and hand the team to current interim head coach Bob Boughner.

For a team with as much collective experience as San Jose, it sure hasn't translated to the ice often enough.

That said, it hasn't all been bad. Yes, the Sharks are 11 points out of a playoff spot with 32 games remaining and a boatload of teams ahead of them to leapfrog, but their season isn't over. We have seen less likely turnarounds throughout NHL history, and it wasn't until the conclusion of the All-Star break that the eventual 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues finally found their stride.

If the Sharks are going to do the same, they'll have the few things that have gone right in the pre-All-Star break portion of the schedule to thank.

The penalty kill

Far and away, the most positive development for the Sharks in what has thus far been a very disappointing season is the continued dominance of their penalty kill. San Jose has taken the fourth-most penalties in the league, and if not for the success of the penalty-kill unit, whatever lingering hope the team has of making it back to the postseason would have been snuffed out long ago.

The Sharks have killed off 87.7 percent of the penalties they've taken this season, and that's even with a bit of recent slippage. That easily is the best penalty-kill percentage in the league, and the difference between their rate and second-place Washington (84.2 percent) is larger than the difference between the Capitals and the 15th-ranked Ottawa Senators.

While the forwards and defensemen have done a tremendous job of applying consistent pressure despite being at least one man down, the goaltenders have gotten in on the fun as well. San Jose is the only team in the NHL with a higher save percentage while shorthanded than at even strength, and it isn't even close.

The Sharks are a below-average offensive and goaltending team, and the penalty kill has constantly bailed them out in both categories. It's arguably the only thing San Jose has been able to rely on since the season began.

The kid

Mario Ferraro should not be this good, this quickly. He made the jump straight from juniors to the NHL, and at only 21 years of age, he has seamlessly slid into the Sharks' defensive corps.

He only has one goal on the season, but it's not necessarily his offensive plays that catch your eye. It's his defensive positioning, vision and awareness that seem to be well beyond his years and have allowed him to hit the ground running.

He's averaging over 15 minutes of ice-time while sharing a locker room with players nearly twice his age. It's still quite early in his career, but he sure does look like the second coming of Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

The old guys

Speaking of the age difference in San Jose's locker room, anything the two 40-year-olds have provided has to be considered in the things that have gone right category. I mean, they're 40-freaking-years-old.

Joe Thornton, currently in his 22nd NHL season, has appeared in all 50 games thus far. He ranks third among all Sharks forwards with 17 assists, and has even chipped in a couple of goals as well.

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Patrick Marleau rejoined San Jose after the first four games of the season and has appeared in every single one since. Only Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Kevin Labanc and Brent Burns have scored more than the franchise's all-time leader in goals, points and games played. Those are supposed to be the Sharks' best players, and frankly, Marleau has been one of them.

Of course, that also helps explain why the Sharks currently find themselves in the position they do. If you're banking on two 40-year-olds being main contributors, something has gone very wrong. That said, both Marleau and Thornton appear to have plenty left in the tank, and the times in which they've succeeded have provided some of the most enjoyable moments of San Jose's season thus far.

The Sharks might not be happy with the way their season has gone, but Marleau and Thornton have definitely made it more entertaining.