After watching the better part of Team Canada's first two games at the 2010 Winter Olympics, I, as a avid Sharks fan, have noticed the strong play of the "Sharks line".
It goes without saying that a line that has played together for the past four months or so would initially be more dominant than a freshly strung together combination, but regardless, people are noticing this Sharks line.
From a statistical view, Dany Heatley is leading the tournament with three goals and one assist in two games, Patrick Marleau has a goal and two assists, and Dan Boyle is sporting two assists of his own. The key omission to this list is Joe Thornton.
Sharks fans will know (and most likely some Boston followers as well) that Thornton does not play his best hockey come playoff time. His numbers don't exactly match up to those of the regular season, and his overall play slows down a bit. We have seen this trend all too often, which doesn't aid in shaking off the undesired tag of "playoff choker".
Thornton now is sitting pretty with 59 assists, which at seasons end will likely be around 82 or so. Much of this can be attributed to huge step up from Marleau, and the scoring prowess of Heatley.
It is no secret that Team Canada General Manager Steve Yzerman selected Thornton for his artful work with the puck and his amazing ability to make the impossible pass, but Yzerman is now seeing the dip in production from Thornton in these Olympics. Conversely, the opposite can be said for his line mates.
In years past, Marleau has been a deadly weapon for the Sharks come playoff time. In the 2004 playoffs, he put in two hat tricks, in the 2006 playoffs, he added another playoff hat trick to his totals, and in 2008, he scored short handed goals in back to back games. Last seasons lack of playoff production may have a lot to do with Jonas Hiller's unreal play, yet he still scored two goals, including an overtime winner.
In these Olympic Games, Marleau has been utilizing his blazing speed and good chemistry with Thornton and Heatley to be one of the tournaments most productive players. Unlike Thornton, Marleau is carrying over his hot regular season play into a playoff like scenario.
The same can be said for Dany Heatley. Team Canada's all time leader in goals in adding to his country wide lead and is getting a solid amount of chances every game. Heatley has been a perennial playoff success, recording 35 points in 34 games, not to mention his 43 goals in 66 games for team Canada.
Let's compare last night's shootout victory for Canada to last springs Sharks playoff run. In both instances, by chance, the main catalyst was Jonas Hiller. The Sharks big playoff performer last year happened to be Dan Boyle. Boyle was a man on a mission last year, specifically in Game Three when he scored twice to give the Sharks a much needed win.
Last night, Hiller again was playing an incredible game, and who lead the scoring charge: the most determined Canadian player (Heatley) and the most determined Shark (Marleau).
These two elite players give me hope; hope that this is the year that the big names step up to the plate and deliver when it counts. That sour taste of first round defeat is ever lingering in their mouths.
(This might be a bit premature given that there have been only two Olympic games, but i like what I see out of all the Sharks players, especially Patty and Heater)
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