May 11 — Predators Petered & Memories of Marleau

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MR. SHARK SHUTS IT DOWN: After 23 seasons in the NHL, 21 of those in the teal of the San Jose Sharks, Patrick Marleau is hanging up the skates. Marleau, who passed Gordie Howe for most games played in the NHL with 1,779, has played with or against more than one-third of every NHL player ever! 

A VIRTUOUS VEZINA: This year will feature a first-time Vezina winner, as Jacob Markström of the Calgary Flames, Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators, and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers all received their first-ever Vezina nomination yesterday. The winner will be announced during the 2022 NHL Awards later in the playoffs. 

LOTO-QUÉBEC: For the second season in a row, the team that finished with the worst record in the regular season has earned the first pick in the upcoming draft. While the New Jersey Devils technically won the lottery, moving up four spaces to No. 2, the Montreal Canadiens will make the first selection in July, likely taking Shane Wright from the Ontario Hockey League.

BRUINS BLUSTERED IN STORM SURGE: Game 5 followed the trend of the series, as the home team Carolina Hurricanes surged passed the visiting Boston Bruins to take a 3-2 series lead. The outcome has been consistent for the home teams, as the Bruins attempt to force a Game 7 with a victory in Boston on Thursday night. 

MATTHEWS MOTIVATES MAPLE LEAFS: It was the fifth playoff game-winning goal in his career, and it came at one of the most significant moments of the series. Auston Matthews finished off a rebound from Mitch Marner to give the Toronto Maple Leafs the eventual 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, setting up a chance for the Leafs to advance past the first round for the first time since 2004. 

WELCOME TO THE TARASENK-SHOW: A tie game heading into the third period quickly turned into the Vladimir Tarasenko show, as the St. Louis Blues forward scored three goals for a natural hat trick en route to a 5-2 Game 5 win over the Minnesota Wild. Tarasenko’s offensive output follows David Perron and Kirill Kaprizov with hat tricks in the series as the Blues look to close out the Wild on Thursday in St. Louis. 

KEMPE KEEPS KINGS KICKING: One minute, 12 seconds was all Adrian Kempe needed in overtime to score his second goal of the night and give the Kings a 5-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Kempe added an assist for three points on the evening, as Leon Draisaitl (two goals, assist) and Connor McDavid (goal, two assists) also had three points to bring the Oilers back from a two-goal deficit twice to force overtime. 

Player Spotlight: Patrick Marleau

Patrick Marleau officially announced his retirement from the NHL yesterday via an article he penned in The Players’ Tribune. The 42-year-old forward played 23 seasons in the league, his final in 2020-21, when he had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 56 games with the San Jose Sharks.

Marleau retires as the Sharks’ all-time leader in games played (1,607), goals (522), and points (1,111). He also leaves the NHL as the all-time leader in games played, skating in 1,779 and tallying 1,197 points (566 goals, 631 assists). In addition to that, he scored 127 points (72 goals, 55 assists) in 195 career postseason games. Here is a look back at the historically long career of Patrick Marleau.

Early Years

Born on Sep. 15, 1979, in Aneroid, Saskatchewan, Marleau was selected second overall by the Sharks in the 1997 NHL Draft. At 17 years, nine months, and six days, the center was the youngest player in the draft, as his birthday was the NHL’s cut-off date. He was brought up to the NHL not long after his 18th birthday, making his NHL debut on Oct. 1, 1997, and scoring 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 74 games during the 1997-98 season.

Years before becoming teammates, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were the first two picks in the 1997 NHL Draft (Photo By: JEFF BLAY)

Marleau played 81 games in each of the following three seasons, totaling 137 points (63 goals, 74 assists). He took a step forward in 2002-03, scoring 57 points (28 goals, 29 assists), and was named a team captain before that next year, a title he held until 2009.

In His Prime

That first season as captain, Marleau finished with identical point, goal, and assist totals from the year before in two fewer games. He also made his first NHL All-Star Game appearance. His best season came in 2005-06, achieving a career-high 86 points (34 goals, 52 assists) in 82 games. Over the next eight seasons, he finished with fewer than 70 points only three times.

Marleau became arguably the greatest San Jose Shark of all-time while also showing leadership and durability (THW Archives)

That stretch included two more All-Star Game appearances (2007 & 2009), a career-high 44 goals in 2009-10, and four consecutive multi-goal games to begin the 2012-13 season. Marleau is one of two players in NHL history (Cy Denneny in 1917-18) to accomplish such a feat.

One Last Cup Chase

In 2015-16, Marleau reached 1,000 career points in the NHL. He and Joe Thornton, the one player drafted ahead of him in 1997, also helped lead the Sharks to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Following 19 seasons in San Jose, Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in June 2017. After not missing a single regular-season game during the previous eight seasons of his first stint in San Jose, he played every game during his two seasons in Toronto, totaling 84 points (43 goals, 41 assists).

Marleau finally left San Jose in 2017, spending two years with the Maple Leafs before eventually returning to the Sharks (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

The Maple Leafs traded Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes in June 2019, and the Hurricanes bought out the last year of his contract five days later. He returned to San Jose on a one-year deal that October, tallying 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 58 games before being traded to Pittsburgh.

After finishing the 2019-20 season with the Penguins (where he played eight regular-season games and four playoff games), Marleau again went back to the Sharks, signing with them in Oct. 2020. The 2020-21 season was his final in the NHL.

Wild Card Updates

In today’s edition of Wild Card Wednesday, we look at the four Wild Card teams in the NHL playoffs.

Boston Bruins

Boston’s window to win a Stanley Cup is closing quickly. Brad Marchand is 34, while Patrice Bergeron is 36 and this could be one of the last times we see the Bruins captain in the postseason. Yesterday, the Bruins lost 5-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes and are now down in the series 3-2. The most intriguing part of this series is that the home team has walked away with the victory. Boston will need to figure out how to win at PNC Arena as the stage is being set for a dramatic Game 7 on the road for Bruce Cassidy’s team.

Washington Capitals

Florida went all in this season and won the Presidents’ Trophy. To advance to the second round, they must first beat the Washington Capitals, who have been a worthy opponent thus far. Alex Ovechkin’s team won Games 1 and 3 and almost walked away with a victory on Monday before losing in overtime. It is no surprise that Ovechkin and Nicholas Bäckström are leading the way with five points in four games. Even without Tom Wilson, the Caps are putting up a fight and have a chance to eliminate the top team in the league. 

Dallas Stars

Most thought this round would be a runaway for the Calgary Flames, but the Dallas Stars have proven to be a sneaky team. The goaltending matchup between Jake Oettinger and Vezina Trophy finalist Jacob Markström has been a joy to witness, with both netminders recording a shutout and statistically have been the best goaltenders in the early part of this postseason. This series can go either way and with a top line that combined for 242 points this season for the Stars, Dallas cannot be taken lightly by Calgary as Game 5 approaches. 

Nashville Predators

Nashville was the first team eliminated from the 2022 postseason after the Colorado Avalanche swept them, celebrating their advancement to the second round at Bridgestone Arena. Although the Avalanche were favored heavily in this matchup, the fact that Juuse Saros was not in net was the final nail in Nashville’s coffin. The Predators do not have the necessary depth needed to make a deep playoff run and are only as good as the play of Roman Josi and Saros. More on that is below. 

What Went Wrong

With the Colorado Avalanche’s sweep of the Nashville Predators delivering us our first casualty of the 2022 NHL postseason, we figured it was time to dip into our archives and pull out a fun segment from last year’s playoffs. Here, we look at what happened to those vanquished teams as the Stanley Cup field narrows.

Nashville Predators

Depending on how you feel about the 2020 Qualifying Round, the Nashville Predators may have kept their playoff streak alive at seven seasons, but that’s about all they could muster despite award-worthy seasons from Norris finalist Roman Josi and Vezina finalist Juuse Saros.

Roman Josi led the Nashville Predators with a career-best 96-point season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately for the Preds, their Vezina candidate didn’t see a minute of ice time in the playoffs due to an ill-timed left leg injury, as their Norris hopeful could only do so much in his absence. While Matt Duchene resumed his scoring tear against Colorado, fellow 40-goal man Filip Forsberg didn’t score his first of the series until the third period of Game 4.

Also unfortunate for Nashville was a final day of the regular season that saw them be leapfrogged by the fellow Western Conference Wild Card Dallas Stars, sending them to an unenviable first-round matchup with the Avs. Seeing as how the Stars are locked in a tight 2-2 battle with the Calgary Flames, it’s fair to wonder if their fate would be different had they eked out just one more point.

Has Filip Forsberg played his last game as a Nashville Predator? (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The biggest challenge for the Predators ultimately proved to be momentum. A hot first half had them leading the entire conference on Jan. 11 after an overtime win over those same Avs. However, inconsistency the rest of the way led to a 21-19-7 mark when many playoff contenders were on an upward swing. You could chalk that up to deadline inactivity (they only added depth defenseman Jérémy Lauzon, who was a minus-3 in three ineffective games), but it also might have simply been a case of a thin team trending the wrong way at the wrong time.

What Now?

With all due respect to the depth guys needing new contracts, like Luke Kunin and Yakov Trenin, Nashville’s offseason priority list begins and ends with pending unrestricted free agent Forsberg. The biggest challenge for GM David Poile regarding the long-time Predators forward is balancing the need to keep the 27-year-old coming off a career year with the idea that doing so might lock the club into a core that failed to win a single playoff game.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Leading Scorers

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