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Popping the Clutch

Marleau scores OT game winner number three this season

Predators @ Sharks, March 8, 2011

Patrick Marleau did it again.  It was his third OT winner of the season.  A discussion bubbled up on the Sharks message board about whether or not this earned Paddy the label of clutch player.  Whatever you want to call him, I don’t think Sharks fans will whine quite so loudly about Paddy now.  For a little bit anyway.  There is little doubt about what his team thinks of him:

“That was an extra gear. I’ve seen him skate, but that was an extra one tonight. If there wasn’t any end boards, he might still be going. He was going that fast.” -Todd McLellan quoted by Working the Corners

Before the game, I said that the Sharks were due a win.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Just because you lost one doesn’t mean you are owed a win.  Not after an eight game winning streak.  I still thought it, I just couldn’t figure out why.

Joel Ward, one of those troublesome Preds

The Predators have been a thorn in the Sharks’… er… fin this season.  They didn’t lose when they were supposed to, they had some good runs that could not be accounted for.  They have been meddlesome in the standings.  So even if they don’t jump to mind as a big scary beast of a team, they can’t be taken for granted.

After a couple of losses to the Preds, I don’t think the Sharks take them for granted.  You could argue that the Sharks have given a few goaltenders too much credit this season.  Game after game, the Sharks outshot their opponent like a gazillion to three and still couldn’t score.  That changed last month, when the goals started to come.  I don’t think it’s because they stopped facing good goalies.  One might suspect that the team started shooting smarter.

Unfortunately, the Predators’ Pekka Rinne actually is one of those scary good goalies, so the Sharks would have to send lots and lots of shots his way, and put a lot of traffic in front of him.  One of the Sharks’ goals was described thus by Clowe:

“No, I felt it hit me, but I didn’t see it until I felt it.  I had no chance to kick it because I didn’t see it. I knew it hit off my laces and it wouldn’t have been called back.” -Ryane Clowe quoted by Working the Corners

Pekka Rinne: spoilsport

Clowe didn’t think it was his goal at first.  When it went in, he pointed to Heatley as if to say “it was his, not mine.”  In the greater scheme of things, it really was Heatley’s.  Clowe’s foot had no idea where the puck was.  Sometimes the numbers don’t tell the story.

The score did reflect the tempo of this game.  If you like suspense, a 3-2 game is that, especially when the teams trade goals, spending a lot of time tied up.  Oddly, Sharks fans aren’t as chatty online now that their team is winning.   The message board’s Game Day threads are getting shorter and shorter as the team’s record improves.

I don’t think that is a problem worth worrying about.  Right now all the team needs are wins.

What next?  The Canucks, and perhaps the return of Dan Boyle.  Word is, he’s more likely to be back for Saturday’s game against the Rangers, but nothing has been confirmed.

Braun finding a way, with a little help from his friends.

Boyle’s absence has been noteworthy not only because it is hard to not miss a player of his caliber and experience, but also because the team has not fallen apart.  Justin Braun has performed admirably in Boyle’s absence, but he is still green.  The team has found some stability in spite of Boyle’s absence.  That Braun could step in and make himself useful (he did score last night, his second of the season in 20 games) is a sign that the team is much more confident than they were last Fall, and they have found their depth.  It is a much better environment for a young defenseman to find his footing.

So it’s good to know all that.  Now let’s get Boyle back in the lineup.

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