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Sharks Captain Big At Crunch Time

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
He is one of the quietest leaders in hockey, but make no mistake, Patrick Marleau is a great leader for the Sharks.  He is also one of the quietest goal scorers in the NHL, but make no mistake, Marleau is among the NHL’s best at his trade – and even more so at this time of year.
“He’s very quiet, but he’s a great leader,” said Christian Ehrhoff.  “He gives his best and steps up when it matters.”
And when the occasion calls for it, Marleau will express his opinion.
“He says the right things when he needs to,” said Ehrhoff. 
During the last several years, Marleau has slid under the radar in becoming not just an elite goal scorer, but a crunch time performer.
Of the players drafted since 1997, Marleau is among the leaders in goals with Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier. However, the Lightning forward receives more notoriety.
“He belongs among the top goal scoring forwards in the NHL,” said Ehrhoff. “He should be mentioned with players like (Colorado’s Joe) Sakic and others.”
Some players have the shot. Some have the size. Some have the speed. Marleau is the entire package.
“He’s so fast and strong,” said Ehrhoff who faces Marleau every day in practice. “He has such a good shot with a quick release that he is tough to defend against.”
Marleau’s lack of recognition is probably a combination of playing most of his games in the obscurity of the West Coast and his quiet nature. Although more than accommodating for all media requests, Marleau simply doesn’t look for the limelight. 
“Maybe a little,” said Craig Rivet, the ex-Canadien who became Marleau’s teammate after a trade deadline deal in late February. “In Montreal, you don’t hear about the Sharks. The games are never broadcast, they are never on TV.”
Rivet is aware of Marleau’s scoring ability from playing with him in some Team Canada international tournaments.
“I played in the World Championships with him,” said Rivet. “He’s an elite player and the type of guy that picks up his game when he needs to.”
Scoring in the regular season is one thing, but stepping up when it counts is another. Marleau’s 20 postseason goals since 2003-04 is tied for the NHL lead with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla.  During last year’s postseason, Marleau registered a nine-game point streak and a five-game goal streak. When San Jose was eliminated, he was leading the league in goals (nine), power play goals (four) and game-winning goals (two). Marleau’s also the team’s all-time leading postseason scorer – something that was news to him until recently. 
“I think my wife said something to me when the announcers said it on air,” said Marleau. 
Scoring in the postseason is what Marleau and all players planned out as kids skating on the pond.
“It’s always a dream growing up to be that type of player,” said Marleau. “When you played road hockey, it was always the seventh game and the next goal wins. It is what you always dream about.”
San Jose rode Marleau’s ability to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 and the Captain hopes to go further in 2007.  If Round One is any indication, Marleau will be stepping up again. When the Sharks trailed Nashville in the deciding Game Five of this year’s Western Conference Quarterfinals against Nashville, Marleau scored the game-tying and series-clinching goals. 
“That’s when it really counts,” said Rivet. “That type of player picks up his game when he needs to and your star players produce.”
As a blueliner watching Marleau’s ability from a prime location, Ehrhoff appreciates when his Captain delivers.
“He scores a lot of goals in the playoffs,” said Ehrhoff.
Marleau and the Sharks will be tested often against Detroit with future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek standing, sliding, scrambling and doing everything in his power to hold the Sharks off the board.
“He’ll do whatever it takes to stop the puck,” said Marleau. “He’ll roll back, use his head, whatever it takes.”
On the other side of the coin, Marleau and his mates will also do whatever it takes to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in three seasons.
The Sharks acquired Craig Rivet for his defense, but his offensive talents are shining through as well. Rivet is tied for first among all NHL blueliners in playoff goals with two and is tied for fourth in points with five.
Rivet has not changed his game to produce the offense, but as all smart players do, has taken what comes his way.
“Pretty much the same as the regular season,” said Rivet. “When an opportunity comes, you need to take it.  If you don’t, you’re not going to win.”
One item that cannot be overlooked as the Sharks travel to the Motor City is that no matter how tight Detroit’s quarterfinal series was with Calgary, the Red Wings were the Western Conference’s top point producer and more than worthy of the No. 1 seed.
“They’re the best in the Western Conference,” said Coach Ron Wilson. “(Nicklas) Lidstrom may win the Norris Trophy.”
What did the Sharks take from the Calgary-Detroit series?
“Calgary’s power play worked well,” said Wilson. “We have to work hard five-on-five and (earn power plays).”
As for scoring on the Red Wings and their stingy defense, the recipe will be the same no matter the opponent.
“We’ve got to crowd the crease and use our big bodies to make it difficult for Hasek to see pucks,” said Wilson. 
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