Patrick Marleau Outplayed by Opposing Captains in Four Straight Series

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMay 28, 2009

Prior to the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Patrick Marleau was known as a playoff performer.

Coming into this year's postseason, the San Jose faithful expected Marleau to continue his personal playoff prowess after having his best regular season of his career.

Entering the playoffs as the No. 1 team in the NHL, the Sharks and their fans were expecting playoff hockey inside the Shark Tank deep into May—and preferably June.

However, those expectations came nowhere close to being achieved as the top-seeded Sharks were upset by their division rival and eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks.

Now since their departure from the playoffs much has been said about what needs to be changed in San Jose. Some say the Sharks need to trade Marleau, some say they need to trade Joe Thornton, some think they need to trade Evgeni Nabokov, and some say they need to trade all three.

To be fair, all three of the Sharks big-name players deserve an equal amount of scrutiny—but in the end, the team captain has to overcome adversity and pull his team through difficult circumstances.

In the past, the Sharks' captain has performed admirably. Coming into this year's playoffs, Marleau was tied with Calgary's Jarome Iginla for the league lead in playoff goals since the 2003-04 season, with 24.

As the former No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 draft, Marleau has been a key member of the Sharks his entire career but has now been captain since the end of the 2003-04 season.

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That year the Sharks went further than they ever had before and further than they ever have since.

San Jose appeared in their first ever Western Conference Final and fell in six games to none other than Jarome Iginla's Calgary Flames. In the series, Jarome Iginla registered five points (4 G, 1 A) while Marleau managed just two points (1 G, 1 A).

In arguably Marleau's greatest post-season, where his Sharks went further than they have ever gone in their history, the captain was out-played by the opposing captain when it mattered most.

Granted between the 2003-04 season and this past season 2008-09 Marleau has had a few good playoff series and a few not so good playoff series.

However, in the past four playoff rounds for the Sharks, their captain has been out-played by the opposing team's captain each and every time.

In 2006-2007, the Sharks were experiencing their first full year with Joe Thornton on the team and coincidentally posted their franchise-best regular-season point total. San Jose finished fifth in the West with 107 points and easily won their first-round matchup. The Sharks beat the No. 4 seeded Nashville Predators in five games, which gave them a second round matchup against the Detroit Red Wings.

Despite their captain putting up six points in the Nashville series, this is where Patrick Marleau disappeared.

The Sharks captain failed to record a single point in the six-game series—and in Game Four cost his team from going up three games to one in the series.

Up by a 2-1 score with under 40 seconds remaining, the Sharks were trying to clear their zone and potentially seal the game with an empty-netter. However, Marleau was on the wrong side of the puck during a battle along the boards—the offensive side, not on the defensive side. The puck squirted through the scrum and free to Detroit's Robert Lang who scored on a 2-on-1 down low with 30 seconds remaining to tie the score.

If you don't already know what happened next, you probably have a sense of where this is going. Detroit would go on to win in overtime and tie up the series 2-2 heading back to Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings would win game five and came back to San Jose to wrap up the series in six games.

Detroit's captain Niklas Lidstrom had three points in the series (1 G, 2 A) and played superb defense as only the now six time Norris trophy winner can. He kept his team calm and stepped up his play when his team needed it most.

The whole Detroit Red Wings team out-played Marleau in this series—not just their captain.

In the 2007-2008 season, the Sharks bounced back from the previous year's series loss to finish the regular season in second place, and another franchise record for points with 108.

This time around the Sharks once again won their first round playoff series. For the third straight year, the Sharks were moving onto the Western Conference Semi-finals, this time beating the Calgary Flames in seven games.

However, despite registering six points (3 G, 3 A), Marleau needed help from Jeremy Roenick to advance the Sharks to the second round. Roenick put up four points (2 G, 2 A) in Game Seven, and propelled the Sharks to a 5-3 victory over the Flames.

The series itself should not have gone seven games, as San Jose blew a 3-0 lead in Game Three and laid a dud of a performance in Game Six in Calgary, losing 2-0. The No. 2 seeded Sharks needed seven games against the No. 7 seeded Flames, but they should have won the series more quickly than they did.

Part of the reason the Flames were able to take the Sharks to a seventh and deciding game was because of their physical play. Calgary immensely roughed up the Sharks' Marleau twice in Game Three and made him pay multiple times throughout the rest of the series.

But the main reason Calgary extended the series to a do or die game is because their captain, Jarome Iginla outplayed Patrick Marleau in every aspect of the game. Iginla put up nine points (4 G, 5 A) to Marleau's six and led by example on the ice, giving the Sharks defenders fits every time he stepped out onto the ice.

Even though the Sharks won the series, the Sharks captain was once again outplayed by Jarome Iginla and for the second straight series was outplayed by the opposing team's captain.

The following series extended the Sharks second round losing streak to three straight seasons. The Dallas Stars came into San Jose and won both games inside the Shark Tank before taking a 3-0 lead after returning to Dallas.

Now the Sharks did manage to force a game six and Marleau was a big part of that scoring two short-handed goals. One of the shorties came in the Game Three loss but the second one tied up Game Four at 1-1 and the Sharks went on to win 2-1.

However Marleau came up empty on the score-sheet during San Jose's game five OT win and in the Game Six loss in Dallas. And rather fittingly for Dallas, in the four-OT thriller that was Game Six, their captain Brendan Morrow scored the game winner. For the series, Morrow had five points—including four goals.

For the third-straight series, Patrick Marleau was outplayed by the other team's captain.

Finally, we get to this year's postseason. The Sharks came into the playoffs with arguably the most-talented roster in team history, won the President's Trophy as the top team in the regular season, and were prime for a deep playoff run.

But despite all that, the Sharks' playoff failures continued and this time in the first round where they hadn't lost since 2000-01 when they fell to the St. Louis Blues.

The eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks dispatched the No. 1 Sharks in six games—and noticeably absent throughout the series was the Sharks' captain.

Although Marleau scored both game winning goals in the Sharks' two victories, the San Jose winger tallied just one other point in the series finishing with just three points in six games. Not terrible, but not what you would want statistically out of your captain.

Now a captain does not have to necessarily score to be effective, but minus the two game winning goals, Marleau was hardly noticed on the ice the entire series. The Sharks captain did not provide any boost of energy and was rarely seen making an impact physically.

Meanwhile the Ducks' captain Scott Niedermayer was all over the ice in every game of the series. The defenseman tallied five points in the six games (1 G, 4 A), and was a force that could not be stopped. Niedermayer played excellent defensively, especially on the penalty kill and hence was almost always on the ice.

Niedermayer had more points than Marleau and outplayed him in every other facet of the game as well.

For the fourth-straight series, the opposing captain outplayed Patrick Marleau.

Now, the fact that Marleau has had playoff success in the past makes me feel as if the Sharks should give their captain one more chance, especially because it has become apparent that this playoffs he played through an injury.

However, in year's past Marleau did not have as severe of injuries to deal with—and more often then not was still outplayed by the opposing team's captain.

That said, the Sharks might want to think about finding a captain that can rise to the occasion, step up his game, and actually out-perform the other team's captain.

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