Brent Burns

Sharks' Patrick Marleau defies laws of time, has Gordie Howe in sights

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AP

Sharks' Patrick Marleau defies laws of time, has Gordie Howe in sights

SAN JOSE -- Early in the second period Saturday night, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns launched a slapshot from the point, just as the penalized Dallas Stars player was coming out of the box.

The powerful shot couldn't be contained by Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin, and the rebound eventually got poked over to his right side where a Sharks player was waiting to stuff it into the night.

Stuff it, he did, as Patrick Marleau scored one of the easier goals he has ever had in his 22-year NHL career. It wasn't a noteworthy goal, aside from the fact that in came in his 1,700th career game and it proved to be the game-winner.

Okay, so maybe it was pretty noteworthy.

Simply by participating in Saturday's game at SAP Center, Marleau became the fifth player in NHL history to appear in 1,700 career games. Of the five players to accomplish the feat, he is the only one to score within the milestone game.

"That's unbelievable," Burns said of Marleau after San Jose's 2-1 win. "To do what he has done, it's incredible. A lot of hard work, luck ... I can't say enough about that guy. Off the ice, on the ice ... what he does, it's incredible."

From his first shift to his last, Marleau was flying around the ice. He admitted afterward that the occasion might have had something to do with it.

"It's one of those milestone games, so you've got a little extra energy, a little extra jump," he explained. "It's nice getting that one on the board tonight and helping the team offensively."

On a night when former captain Joe Pavelski was in the spotlight, Marleau managed to steal some of it from his long-time friend and ex-teammate. His goal put San Jose in front, and the Sharks seemed to build confidence from that point forward. Yes, his offensive contribution was a big help, but he showed he is still capable of contributing an all-around game.

"That's vintage Marleau tonight," Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said after the victory. "You see his skating at 40 years old. You can see he has that separation speed. I think that he battled hard on the boards -- he made some great plays on the wall -- scores a goal, so real happy for him. 

"It was a good night. You could tell the building had a lot of energy. It was a great ceremony for [Pavelski], and I thought that Patty got his fair due. So it was a good night all around."

[RELATED: Watch Pavelski get standing ovation before Sharks-Stars]

While Marleau provided the game-winning goal, San Jose netminder Aaron Dell came through with multiple game-saving stops in the final minutes to secure the much-needed win. Even from the opposite side of the ice, he can't help but notice how Marleau continues to defy the laws of time.

"He's still the same player he always was," Dell said. "I don't think he has lost a step at all. It's amazing that he can still play at this age. I remember watching him as a kid and stuff like that, so it's pretty cool to be playing alongside him and [Joe Thornton]. It's quite a feat, really, to be even close to what they are."

Between Marleau and Thornton, they have 44 combined NHL seasons and 3,313 games between them. The 40-year-olds are each one of 14 players in league history to appear in four different decades, and while they no longer are the prolific superstars they were in their primes, you don't have to look further than San Jose's back-to-back wins to observe they still have plenty left in the tank. Just like Marleau's tally against the Stars, Thornton's goal Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets proved to be the game-winner.

"Every day you watch those two guys, you sort of shake your head," Boughner said with a laugh. "It's just how they do it. And it's nice to have them on your side, for sure."

Marleau wasn't on the Sharks' side as recently as the summer, but a combination of circumstances opened the door for his return to the franchise, which has been a feel-good storyline in a season that hasn't had many of them. It is only fitting and proper that he reached the 1,700-game milestone in a San Jose uniform, and he hasn't closed the door and pursuing another one.

After Saturday night, Marleau now trails Gordie Howe by only 67 games for the most all-time in NHL history. He would have to return for a 23rd season in order to eclipse that record, and while Marleau admitted that it's something he has thought about, he isn't looking that far ahead.

"It crosses your mind, but obviously you have to take it one game at a time," Marleau said of chasing Howe. "I hate saying that, but that's the way it is, and that's the way it has always been."

After playing 1,700 games, one could hardly blame Marleau for his one-game-at-a-time approach. But if Saturday night was any indication, he definitely has a shot at standing alone atop that all-time games-played list.

Sharks' Brent Burns selected to 'EA Sports NHL 20' Team of the Year

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USATSI

Sharks' Brent Burns selected to 'EA Sports NHL 20' Team of the Year

EA SPORTS NHL 20 revealed its Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) Team of the Year on Friday, and Sharks defenseman Brent Burns was one of six NHL players selected to the team.

Burns was originally part of a group of 36 nominees for the prestigious honor, based on their performance over the past calendar year in hockey. 

The Sharks defenseman was selected to the team, thanks to his career-high 83 points during the 2018-19 season and 29 points to start the 2019-20 season.

"Burns’ towering presence and elite skating ability easily puts him among the league’s best blueliners," the EA Sports press release wrote.

Burns will receive a special Team of the Year HUT item, a special trophy, and custom Team of the Year skates for his work.

photos courtesy of EA Sports

He joins St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, Washington Capitals defenseman Josh Carlson and left wing Alexander Ovechkin, Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid on the HUT Team of the Year.

How players' meeting was catalyst for Sharks' suddenly-hot power play

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USATSI

How players' meeting was catalyst for Sharks' suddenly-hot power play

SAN JOSE -- From Nov. 19 to Dec. 31, the Sharks' power play was beyond putrid, scoring only twice on 49 attempts. But since the turn of the calendar, San Jose has been scorching with the man-advantage.

In the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at SAP Center on Thursday night, San Jose went 1-for-3 on the power play, with the lone marker proving to be the game-winning goal -- an absolute howitzer from Joe Thornton. By scoring that power-play goal, Thornton became the oldest player in franchise history to score a game-winning goal at 40 years, 191 days. But more importantly, it continued a trend in which the special-teams unit seems to have gotten back on track.

Counting Thornton's goal, the Sharks are now 5-for-11 with the man-advantage in 2020, scoring at least one power-play goal in four of their five games. So, what's different?

According to defenseman Brent Burns, well, not much at all.

"Getting bounces," Burns explained. "You're seeing things go in that previously never did. Instead of hitting a stick and going out, it's going in. Just quick movement and getting shots. I know it looks easy from where you guys sit, but the difference between [a shot] getting through and not is pretty minimal.

"It's nice to see that going in and guys getting confidence from that. But I wouldn't say there's much difference."

While Burns' explanation seems perfectly plausible, the good bounces aren't necessarily happening now by accident. Just before the power play caught fire, some of its critical members got together to try to figure things out.

"We had a dinner probably five, six games ago as a group of five, and chatted a little bit," Sharks winger Evander Kane said after the win. "[The power play] seemed to kind of take off from there. We've got some good puck movement going on. We don't care who scores and it's working right now."

When pressed for more details about that meeting of the minds, Kane was mum on the specific participants. But whatever was said certainly appears to have worked. 

"We knew that we hit rock bottom," Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said of the power play. "You could see that we changed personnel, changed units around and it started clicking. And I think the biggest difference is we're not holding on to pucks on the power play. We're making other teams adjust because we're having good puck movement and I believe that our shooting mentality is a lot better."

As impressive as Thornton's shot was -- and boy did that thing move -- Boughner pointed to a less obvious reason for the puck finding the back of the net.

"And on that goal, great shot by [Thornton]," Boughner said, "but I think he could see where [Barclay Goodrow] was, and it was in the goalie's eyes. And the last few power-play goals, they're all the same. Timo [Meier] the other night in St. Louis. [Goodrow] is doing a real good job of sitting on the lap of that goalie. So it's nice to have options. That unit has been excellent for us."

[RELATED: Sharks captain Couture blames himself for fractured ankle]

The two points resulting from the win will aid the Sharks as they attempt to climb their way back into the playoff picture. They still have a long way to go, but Thursday's performance can serve as a building block as they attempt to piece some victories together. With Logan Couture expected to miss several weeks with a fractured ankle, San Jose can use every offensive boost it can get. The power play has found a groove, and the longer it can keep it up, the longer the Sharks can keep their postseason hopes alive.