Good start for Marleau after poor ending last season

Good start for Marleau after poor ending last season
January 21, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Partick Marleau scored two goals in the Sharks' season opener in Calgary, pacing his team to a 4-1 win. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

EDMONTON – It may be a shortened season, but it could be vitally important for one of the faces of the Sharks franchise. Fortunately for Patrick Marleau, it’s off to an excellent start, even though there’s only been just one lonely game played so far.

Marleau scored two goals in the season opener in Calgary, pacing the Sharks to a 4-1 win, and was noticeably strong on his skates for the duration. He was quick on his feet, found open ice, and used his stick and body effectively along the boards. It was perhaps a first step in putting last year’s disturbing second half performance behind him.

“You want to have a good season. You don’t really think about what’s gone on in the past, just focus on what’s at hand and the games we’re playing right now,” said Marleau, whose parents, sister and two nephews were at the game at the Saddledome on Sunday night.

“Very good start last night,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “For a guy that hasn’t played during the lockout, I thought he looked very strong skating, very powerful, didn’t fatigue very much, skated to holes and to open ice. He’s just that good a skater that he can do that.”

The former captain of the Sharks finished last season on a four-game point streak, but prior to that, with his team scuffling to make it to the postseason, had just two goals in 20 games. He didn’t record a single point in the five-game playoff loss to the St. Louis Blues, and faced justifiable criticism – again – for not raising his game when the team needed him the most.

“Sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t. That was the case,” Marleau said. “You try and work through it and keep going to those places and keep getting to those chances, and eventually it’s going to go in.”

While Marleau was one of a number of players that didn’t play up to expectations after the All-Star break, his name was absent from the team’s postseason injury report. Players like Ryane Clowe (concussion), Marty Havlat (hamstring), Logan Couture (shoulder) and Michal Handzus (hip), all of whom struggled in the season’s final months, were dealing with significant injuries. Marleau, still the second-highest paid player on the roster this season at $6.9 million, wasn’t.

“When you break our seasons into halves - because Patty had a pretty good first half - if you take the second half, there’s a large group of players that should be looking for something of a redemption start or redemption season, Patty being one of them,” McLellan said.

While players like Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle elevated their games down the stretch, Marleau faded.

McLellan offered his opinion on what makes Marleau a valuable player when he’s on his game.

“For me, when Patty’s involved, on a – I don’t want to say physically – but when he’s involved in the battles and really using that big body, he’s effective,” McLellan said. “When he’s kind of just half-there, it doesn’t really happen for him, and he knows that and has been told that. When he uses it, it’s a good tool.”

Of course, this season isn’t just important for Marleau, but for the entire Sharks organization. After a fairly significant step backwards last season, another move in the wrong direction could lead to some momentous changes. Compliance buyouts, the trade market and even blowing up the entire roster should all be on the table if San Jose fails to make it to the postseason.

For at least one day, the feelings are positive, from Marleau on down the roster.