SAN JOSE- Tasked most nights with skating against the opposing team’s top line, Sharks forwards Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture have been quite the impressive duo.
Ever since the middle of last year’s lockout shortened season, Marleau and Couture have been paired together on the most critical of forward lines, AKA the “shut-down” line. Most teams have this type of designated line that plays primarily against the opponents top forwards, but few teams can boast one that also averages a goal per game at the offensive end.
Even while drawing the toughest matchups night in and night out, Couture and Marleau are tied with captain Joe Thornton for the team lead in points with 23 in 22 games. Certainly Thornton might have a few more points if his usual linemate Brent Burns hadn’t been out for the past month but it’s still telling just how amazing Couture and Marleau have been by the fact they can pace the team offensively while also being tasked with containing the opponent’s top guns.
The fantastic duo also helped their latest third linemate Tommy Wingels tally his first two-goal game of his career in an impressive 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay.
Now due to injuries and poor performance the third spot next to Marleau and Couture has been somewhat of a revolving door. Martin Havlat first played well there down the stretch last season before getting hurt. Then Raffi Torres filled in nicely before being suspended in the second round last playoffs. At the start of this season Tyler Kennedy earned the role but it has since fluctuated a bit with Havlat back for a few games in that spot, then back to Kennedy, and now Wingels.
But regardless of who joins them on the right wing, Marleau and Couture have simply been brilliant together for the last 50 or so games and their dominant two-way play makes coming up with line combinations an easier task for head coach Todd McLellan.
“They have been very good for a good part of last year and certainly all of this year” commented the coach on the Marleau-Couture combination. “So they feel comfortable with each other, whoever ends up getting that assignment with them has been fairly successful as well. The good thing about them is they’re fairly responsible defensively. They can play against anybody and they can still find ways to get themselves on the score-sheet, so that’s a nice balance.”
Despite going up against Tampa Bay’s Martin. St. Louis line on Thursday, Marleau and Couture combined for six points and 10 shots on goal. Not to mention Couture was 74% in the face-off circle in the rout.
“Logan and Patty have had some tough matchups this entire year” commented Wingels on his new linemates. “And tonight playing against St. Louis, to be on that line and try to help shut the opposing top line down, it’s tough some nights and some nights you don’t get the chances as you would like but tonight we capitalized on the chances we had.”
You don’t often see an entire line share the three stars of the game, but Wingels earned the third star, Marleau the second and Couture the first star against the Lightning.
As for Wingels, the 25-year-old may end up being a main stay on the right-side of that line. It may only be one game but Wingels has been an effective three zone player all season long. Given Havlat’s inconsistency and Kennedy’s sometimes sloppy execution in the defensive zone, Wingels may have the inside track.
However, even if that right wing spot remains in flux, it certainly won’t bother Marleau and Couture. The duo continues to do get the job done regardless of who that third linemate happens to be.
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