The San Jose Sharks had not won four consecutive games all season. Furthermore, Logan Couture had been the primary source of offense of late, logging 10 goals in his last 11 games.
Given these facts, if you were to be told that Couture would be held without a point Thursday with the Sharks coming off three straight wins going into the Christmas holiday, you may well expect that another Sharks win streak would end at three. But Patrick Marleau had other ideas.
Marleau had been colder than the ice surface at HP Pavilion, but broke out in a huge way in the third period against the Phoenix Coyotes, scoring two goals and narrowly missing a bid for a natural hat trick. Prior to that, Marleau had not scored in 10 games, dating back to Dec. 2 in Ottawa.
Marleau has always been a streaky player, suffering from prolonged slumps with very few points before emerging at a torrid pace. Marleau’s third-period explosion on Thursday could signal the end of his most recent slump, and bode very well for the Sharks moving forward. Additionally, it shows some balance in the Sharks’ offensive attack.
The Sharks have been guilty of over-reliance on too few key scorers in the past. Thursday’s game could be a great omen.
One sign of a truly great team is balance and distribution of scoring: when one player starts to slump, another steps in to bail him out. The Sharks had been riding on Logan Couture’s coat tails for some time, masking the fact that other big names had not been living up to their usual exploits. However, when Couture finally cooled off the likes of Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton dialed up their games to fill the void and deliver a win.
The Sharks now enjoy their longest win streak of the year, even if that is only four games. If they can carry their offensive balance forward through the holiday break, however, that streak still has room to grow.
Make no mistake: the Sharks still have looming defensive issues, even if both goaltenders are finally starting to play well at the same time. Nonetheless, a more balanced offensive threat across all four lines—not just the Couture-Clowe-Ferriero combination that had been so relied upon of late—could help the Sharks stay competitive in more games while they look for the answer on defense.
Thursday’s game suggests this balance may be close at hand.
Keep the Faith!