CHICAGO -- Just as Patrick Marleau is heating up, the San Jose Sharks find themselves one loss away from elimination in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Marleau has scored four goals in the last two games of the Western Conference final. Trouble is, he is the only Shark to score in the last two games. The Blackhawks won Game 2 in San Jose on Tuesday, 4-2, and took Game 3 in overtime on Friday, 3-2.
"I've had the pleasure of seeing Patty play now for more than 160 games now, and that's as good as I've seen him play," said San Jose head coach Todd McLellan. "Determined, committed, working real hard all over the rink. Real proud of him. He needs to bring it again."
You can't blame McLellan for continuing to push Marleau. He isn't getting goal scoring from anyone else. Dany Heatley, the star wing acquired from Ottawa before the season to give San Jose a legitimate finisher for a Stanley Cup run, has two goals in 13 playoff games this spring. Joe Thornton, known for his playmaking more than finishing, has three goals this postseason to go with an ugly minus-9 +/-. Joe Pavelski, the talk of the postseason with nine goals in the first two rounds, has not scored in this series.
No one on the Sharks has emerged as a less likely hero in the West final -- Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture, Torrey Mitchell.
The low-key Marleau takes very little comfort in his streak. "I'm just the guy with the hot hand now," he said. "It usually goes in cycles. We have to work hard as a team to score more." Referring to the Sharks' 46 shots on Chicago goalie Antti Niemi, Marleau said, "It's not like we didn't create enough opportunities. If we play the way we did tonight, we should be all right."
"Marleau's got some speed," said Quenneville. "He's a top player. He's a guy we have to be aware of. Certainly they have several guys offensively that are dangerous and are threats. But Marleau's speed and quickness and his shots are all high-end. Let's make an awareness that he's got a hot stick."
It shouldn't be too difficult for Chicago. Everyone else on the Sharks has gone cold.