Patrick Marleau

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Sharks winger Evander Kane returns to his hometown of Vancouver on Saturday, fresh off of doing something a Vancouver-born player had not done in nearly 30 years. 

On Friday, Kane became the first such player to score four goals in an NHL game since Hockey Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, who scored four goals with the Edmonton Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, 1988. It was also the first hat-trick of Kane's career, and just the fourth four-goal game in Sharks history. 

The latter point got us thinking, where does Kane's four-goal effort rank among those games? Using a rigorous, highly scientific process (read: the thoughts of this writer), we've come up with the definitive ranking. 

Without further adieu, we start with another power forward acquired in a midseason trade. 

4. Owen Nolan (Dec. 19, 1995 at Anaheim)

The Final Line: Four goals (Three power play goals), One assist, Six shots on goal

You never forget your first, so we begin with Owen Nolan, the first player to accomplish the feat in franchise history. If not for Kane and another entrant on this list (no spoilers), Nolan would still be the fastest to do it, scoring four goals in just his 27th game and just under two months after the Sharks acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche.

Nolan struck quickly throughout. He opened the scoring just 1:22 into the game against the then-Mighty Ducks, then scored his second only 57 seconds into the second period. His third and fourth, both on the power play, came 34 seconds apart in that same period. 

Just as Kane did on Friday, Nolan scored as many goals as the opposing team in a 7-4 win. It didn't quite have the same impact on the playoff race, however, as San Jose picked up its seventh win....of the entire season (in its 34th game) thanks to Nolan.

3. Patrick Marleau (Jan. 23, 2017 at Colorado)

The Final Line: Four goals (including the game-winner), Six shots on goal

The 1,459th time was the charm for the longest-tenured player in Sharks history, and the then-37-year-old Marleau became the second-oldest since 1987 to score four in a game. The oldest, Martin St. Louis, actually reached the feat against the Sharks as a 38-year-old in 2014. 

Marleau scored all four goals in a span of 13-and-a-half minutes in the third period, which began with the game tied at one. Three of those goals constituted a natural hat trick, in just a 7:42 stretch.

This game also jumpstarted Marleau's pursuit of a major milestone, as the goals were No. 494, 495, 496, and 497 of his career. He scored No. 500 a week-and-a-half later, but the four-goal game gave Marleau yet another signature moment in teal. 

2. Evander Kane (Mar. 16, 2018 at Calgary)

The Final Line: Four goals, Seven shots on goal 

Of all the players to score four goals in Sharks history, Kane certainly had the best timing. With San Jose in the thick of a playoff race and in need of a win, the newly-acquired forward delivered. 

He only needed eight games to score four goals for the first time in teal, but needed 565 for the first hat-trick of his career. The exuberance (and relief) was palpable after Kane scored his third, and that goal put the Sharks up by two. 

The desperate Flames, now four points out of the playoffs, would never get closer than that again, and Kane essentially put the game out of reach with his fourth goal 62 seconds into the third period. No Sharks player has scored four goals in a playoff game, but this one comes the closest. 

1. Tomas Hertl (Oct. 9, 2013 vs New York Rangers)

The Final Line: Four goals (One power play goal), Seven shots on goal

In just his third NHL game, and in front of his griflriend and mother visiting from the native Czech Republic, Tomas Hertl became then the fourth-youngest player in NHL history (now the sixth-youngest) to score a hat-trick-plus-one. If not for Auston Matthews scoring four in his debutHertl has arguably the most memorable four-goal game by a young player to his name. 

Of all the Sharks to score four in a game, Hertl did it the most efficiently. He only played 11:12 in that game against the Rangers, and still scored four goals on seven shots. 

Yes, it was in an October blowout, but no other four-goal game has had the same impact on the rest of the hockey world. From a fourth goal tailor-made to go viral, to the ensuing Hot Takes ("Hertl's disrespecting the game!") and subsequent jokes (Joe Thornton's still looking for four goals) it spawned, Hertl captivated the hockey world in a way no other Shark that's scored four has, and all by living his "dream, no reality."

Sharks beginning to answer major 'what if'


Sharks beginning to answer major 'what if'

In games 48, 49, and 50 of the regular season, the Sharks began to answer the biggest ‘what if’ in franchise history.

What if they had neither Patrick Marleau nor Joe Thornton in the lineup? 

Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings was just the third time since Jan. 21, 2004 that San Jose played a game without Thornton and Marleau. Marleau, of course, famously left for greener pastures with the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer, while his fellow ex-Sharks captain reportedly almost joined him.

That’s according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, who wrote in January that Thornton “was closer to signing with Toronto last summer than many people realize.” Due to Thornton’s right MCL injury, the Sharks have gotten a small glimpse, over the last three games, of what that would have looked like.

It hasn’t been all bad. On one hand, San Jose has won the five-on-five possession battle, controlling 52.07 percent of the shot attempts and 52.21 percent of the unblocked shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick

They’ve also only scored 0.06 fewer goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (2.05) compared to when Thornton was playing (2.11). That’s still not all that productive, but not nearly a big enough drop to sound any alarms. 

On the other, the Sharks are just 0-2-1 in those three games. They’ve been outscored 12-8 in regulation and overtime, and their once-smoldering power play has only converted on one of its last eight opportunities without Thornton. 

Plus, their defensive play, which was already a major concern, has remained largely subpar. San Jose has still allowed far too many high-danger chances (12.32 per 60 minutes of five-on-five play) over the last three games.

Goaltender Martin Jones bailed the defense out on Wednesday, posting a save percentage (.977) above .920 for just the fifth time in his last 16 appearances. The Sharks can reasonably expect him to be better than he has since December, but routinely relying on 40-plus saves isn’t exactly
a recipe for success. 

Three games sans Thornton are not nearly enough to draw any meaningful conclusions, but some are beginning to become apparent. San Jose wasn’t scoring all that much with him, and aren’t scoring much without him, particularly on the power play. 

There’s undoubtedly a hole atop the roster, perhaps two with Marleau also gone. As long as the Sharks’ poor defensive play continues to overshadow Thornton’s injury, though, answering ‘what if’ will have to wait. 

Quantifying Sharks' loss of Marleau


Quantifying Sharks' loss of Marleau

When Patrick Marleau played his first game against the San Jose Sharks, his absence was readily apparent. He wore another uniform, for one, and San Jose entered the first reunion with the league’s seventh-fewest goals, waiting on young players like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier to break out. 

Labanc is now fourth on the team in assists, and Meier’s scored four goals in his last eight games, but the Sharks have now scored the fourth-fewest goals in the NHL, and the seventh-fewest goals per game. They’ve also scored the fewest five-on-five goals. 

Marleau, meanwhile, is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in Toronto. A season after scoring 27 goals, the 38-year-old has 15 goals through 41 games, putting him on pace for exactly 30. That would tie with Logan Couture for the Sharks lead, and Marleau’s 11 five-on-five goals are four more than any San Jose player. 

So yes, ahead of Thursday’s rematch with the Maple Leafs, the Sharks still miss Marleau. But would he have been able to do the same in San Jose? 

Given Toronto’s reputation as a high-flying, high-scoring squad, it’s easy to attribute Marleau’s production to a ‘Babcock bump.’ After all, Marleau is generating shots in five-on-five situations at a higher rate (9.65 shots per 60 minutes, according to Corsica Hockey) than any season since 2007-08. 

Yet the Maple Leafs aren’t as high-flying as you might think. They score like gangbusters, yes, but they’re only 21st in the league in shots per game across all situations (30.68), 19th in five-on-five shot rate (29.65 per 60 minutes), and 12th in five-on-five shot attempt rate (49.23 per 60).

The Sharks are 11th, 13th, and fifth in those respective categories. 

It’s not like Marleau’s riding shotgun with Auston Matthews, either. His most common linemates in the Six are Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri, when he spent most of his five-on-five time alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. 

With all of that context in mind, it certainly seems possible Marleau could have enjoyed a similar late-career renaissance with the Sharks. It wouldn’t have necessarily had to come at the extent of San Jose’s young players, either. 

Part of the reason general manager Doug Wilson felt comfortable letting Marleau walk was confidence in Labanc, Meier, Joonas Donskoi, Tomas Hertl, and Chris Tierney. All but Donskoi are averaging at least half-a-minute more in ice time, and all five have made significant progress in their development. 

Marleau’s resurgence and the young players’ development aren’t mutually exclusive. One of those players would have been bumped from a power play unit, but Marleau’s presence among the top nine forwards didn’t have to mean the demotion of one to the minors or the fourth line, especially if Hertl moved to the wing. 

There are also 18.75 million reasons, or 6.25 million annually over three years, why the Sharks couldn’t keep Marleau. They would not have enjoyed the salary cap space they have now. 

Because of that flexibility, the Sharks are considered a potential player at the trade deadline, and were even linked to Buffalo Sabres winger Evander Kane in a report from The Athletic on Thursday. By letting a scoring winger walk this summer, the Sharks will now have enough cap space in February to acquire...another scoring winger. 

There’s no guarantee Marleau would have enjoyed the same success this season in San Jose as he is in Toronto, but it certainly appears possible. The salary cap concerns may ultimately make walking away the right decision, but for this season at least, it doesn’t appear that way.