Another day, another post swooning over the play of one Patrick Denis Marleau. The Sharks tweeted out a contest to win a signed puck before the opening face-off of San Jose’s 4-0 win over Colorado, giving fans a chance to guess who would score the Sharks’ first goal. Joe Pavelski was a popular choice considering his knack for going nuts against the Avalanche in recent years. My guess was Marleau, and why not? Ride the hot hand, right Coach Harbaugh? Now I patiently refresh my Twitter feed and hope for the best.
I’ll accept a puck signed by a number of today’s stars: Marleau, Joe Thornton, Brad Stuart and Matt Irwin are all acceptable choices. We’ll start by talking about Patty, who is off to one of the hottest starts in NHL history. Marleau has scored two goals in each of the Sharks’ first four games, the most in San Jose history. He became the first player to score eight goals in the first four games of the season since Cy Denneny did it for the Ottawa Senators in 1917.
Again, Marleau’s linemates are reaping the benefits on the score sheet. While it’s Patty doing the finishing, Thornton and Pavelski are setting the table, with one assist apiece for the the two Joes today. Jumbo continues to hold the overall scoring lead with nine assists and two goals in four games, while Pavelski’s eight assists are one behind Thornton for best in the league.
Welcome back, Brad Stuart
Sharks didn’t have much going offensively for much of the first period, something one could certainly correlate to the Sharks’ lack of 5-on-5 scoring recently. Enter Mr. Stuart, who lit The Tank up with this hit on Gabriel Landeskog:
The Avs’ Brian O’Byrne immediately went after Stuart and handled him pretty well, but he was called for a gift basket of penalties in the process: a double-minor for instigation and fighting with a face-shield, a five-minute major for fighting and a ten-minute major for misconduct as well.
Stuart’s hit was the agent of the Sharks’ power play possibilities, and these days, having a man-advantage makes a Sharks goal a virtual lock. San Jose scored two, both off the stick of Marleau. Another goal came early in the second, this one thanks to some good garbage-collecting by Thornton. The fourth of the game came from the rookie defenseman Irwin, the first of his NHL career.
I don’t think I can heap enough praise on Irwin right now. The Sharks are missing two major cogs on their blue line with injuries to Brent Burns and Jason Demers, but Irwin has stepped in and stood out in his NHL debut. His instincts in both the offensive and defensive zone against the Avalanche would trick the casual fan into thinking he’s been playing in this league for years. His contributions towards scoring chances — especially his first goal, a laser beam from the point — have been even more impressive.
— Speaking of impressive, Scott Gomez looked pretty darn sharp centering the fourth line in his debut with the Sharks. It’s pretty clear, even from 15 minutes worth of total ice time, Gomez is going to bring a lot of scoring to the bottom two lines that are severely lacking in the ability to put it in the net.
— I don’t think Gomez will stick on the fourth line for long. It was clear from the opportunities Gomez created, he needs to be skating with players who can finish what he’s starting. No disrespect to Adam Burish or Andrew Desjardin, but Gomez is going to be creating chances rather than capitalizing on them. He’d benefit a lot from having Tommy Wingels and T.J. Galiardi skating next to him, as the top two lines probably won’t be broken up anytime soon.
— Thomas Greiss was in net for the Sharks today, giving Antti Niemi a much-needed day off. Greiss was perfect in net, playing to his first career NHL shutout with 25 saves. While he had a lot of help from his defense (25 blocked shots, nine of which came from Irwin), the Avs’ Semyon Varlamov wasn’t so lucky — he gave up four goals on 26 shots and got pulled in the opening of the third period for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was perfect with 15 saves.
— I wonder if Marleau is becoming best buddies with Brodie Brazil yet. Marleau has been the No. 1 Star for all four of the Sharks’ games this season.
— Fans aren’t nearly as excited about HP Pavilion’s newest four-goal giveaway than they used to be. After the 2009-2010 season, The Tank stopped giving away free Round Table Pizzas for four-goal games and started giving away free tacos from Jack in the Box. According to @WrEtcH, who was in attendance, fans booed the taco giveaway.
— At what point does the word “undefeated” start to actually mean something? Four games? Five games? The Sharks are 4-0, and I’ll be at HP Pavilion for their face off with the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow. Their perfect streak will be on the line!