Adam Krivanek The Hockey Writers
Patrick Marleau’s Last of Many Shots at the Stanley Cup
Among the current active NHLers, nobody has played more games than Patrick Marleau. The 40-year-old forward was drafted way back in 1997, second overall by the San Jose Sharks, right after another star, Joe Thornton. Since then, the legendary No. 12 established himself as perhaps the most significant player in the franchise’s history.
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Naturally, there are countless records to prove that statement. After spending 19 consecutive seasons with the Sharks organization, Marleau holds the top spot on the club’s all-time list in games played, goals, points, power-play goals, shorthanded goals, and game-winning goals.
His prolific goal-scoring ability even ranks him ahead of the likes of Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane in goals among active NHL players with 562. And even though he skated in many more games than these superstars, there is only one better than him in this category – Alexander Ovechkin himself.
Marleau’s most unfortunate statistics, though, lie elsewhere. The Canadian knows the playoff atmosphere better than anyone in the entire league. To be accurate, he hit the ice 191 times in the postseason, but he never managed to achieve what Crosby did 3 times in 27 fewer games – win the Stanley Cup. Thus, before the start of the qualifying round between Marleau’s Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens, let’s take a look at his deepest playoff runs.
First Deep Run
The Sharks organization played its inaugural season in 1991-92. Following a couple of playoff appearances, they finally managed to put together a competitive roster in the 2003-04 season. The team, led by two young forwards in Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo, won 43 games that season, which secured them the No. 1 spot in the Pacific Division.
The hype carried the Sharks past both the St. Louis Blues in the first round and the Colorado Avalanche in the following matchup. Losing only three games through two rounds, the first Stanley Cup Final appearance in the franchise’s history was starting to look attainable. However, the opposing Calgary Flames with star Canadian Jarome Iginla took the Conference Final in six games and denied Sharks the pleasure.
Conference Final Sweep
The second half of the 2000s, in the post-lockout era, carried in the sign of success for the Sharks, at least in terms of the regular seasons. Every season, the Sharks and Marleau were sitting near the top of the league. And after winning the Pacific Division for a third consecutive time in the 2009-10 season, again, it seemed like a possible success is being born. The Sharks, stacked with names like Thornton, Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle, and Joe Pavelski, beat the Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings in six and five games, respectively.
However, the next opponent was, unfortunately, at the beginning of what some call a dynasty. The Chicago Blackhawks swiftly sent the Sharks back home after playing only four games.
Regular Season Success
For the following 2010-11 season, the Sharks‘ core remained the same. And the team kept the momentum from the previous regular seasons to win their sixth Pacific Division banner. In the Western Conference, they ended up only behind the dominant Vancouver Canucks.
Unlike the previous instances, this time, the road to another Conference Final appearance happened to be a bit bumpier. In the first round, they matched up against their biggest rivals, another California-based organization. The Los Angeles Kings didn’t give up without a fight but eventually lost to the Sharks in six games. The team around Marleau faced even more problems with the Red Wings, as the series needed full seven games to determine the winner.
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Following these nerve-wracking battles, the Sharks faced the Canucks, who were led by the legendary Sedin brothers, and the California fans had to swallow another bitter pill as they once again watched their team be eliminated from the Stanley Cup contention.
The Best Chance
The Sharks organization has only made it to the Stanley Cup Final once. In the 2015-16 season, the team, with the grizzled veteran player in Marleau, finally broke the curse and fought its way through the Conference Final. The last obstacle they had to overcome on their way to the Holy Grail had been represented symbolically by the Penguins.
The team built up around Crosby and Evgeni Malkin experienced a miraculous finish of the regular season and unexpectedly stormed through the playoffs, beating all the favorites, including the Sharks. The dreams were shattered again.
Since then, Marleau unsuccessfully attempted to achieve a deep playoff run in two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And after returning to San Jose, Doug Wilson traded him away to the Penguins in exchange for a 2021 third-round draft pick to give the iconic player one last shot at the Stanley Cup.
Will this postseason end differently for the veteran, or will it contain more disappointment?
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