December 02, 2009
In the six games they've been together, the mega-powers line of Dany Heatley(notes), Patrick Marleau(notes) and Joe Thornton(notes) has scored a combined 30 points: Thornton's one goal and 12 assists; Heatley's four goals and five assists and Marleau's six goals and two assists, including his two tallies last night.
Watching them operate last night against the Ottawa Senators, you can see why Don Cherry's lobbying for them to be the top line for Team Canada. They have absurd chemistry. Heatley had about 10 shots (not all on goal) in the first period. Marleau's speed and shooting ability this year make you wonder how he ever lost the "C". Thornton remains a top-three passer in hockey -- with Crosby and Brad Richards(notes), for our money -- taking the NHL point lead back from Marian Gaborik(notes) last night (39 points to 37).
Best line in hockey? Probably. But for how long?
We figured the NHL's best would have been the Ovechkin/Backstrom/Semin trio, which won our early-season poll for top line. But they've been shuffled around due to injury and the need to pump up the second line. So has the Chicago Blackhawks' line of Patrick Kane(notes), Jonathan Toews(notes) and Marian Hossa(notes), which was broken up for the sake of depth by Joel Quenneville this week.
That's probably the biggest obstacle for this Sharks line. Keeping any trio together for the duration of the season is rare, because of factors like injuries and inconsistency down the lineup. The fact that Devin Setoguchi(notes) excelled with Thornton and Heatley earlier this season, before his injury, would logically allow Todd McLellan to drop Marleau down to help another scoring line if he needed to.
Ah, yes: depth at forward. The one area of the Sharks that GM Doug Wilson had to address after last season's first-round tank to the Anaheim Ducks, or suffer another playoff indignity. We've praised the additions of Manny Malhotra(notes) and Jed Ortmeyer(notes) before; the fact that the Sharks are now getting contributions from the Frazer McLarens of the world offers hope that the top line -- which really needs a nickname -- might stick together rather than be sacrificed for a balanced lineup.
Marleau should be so lucky. He's basically played himself onto the Canadian Olympic team, and if his numbers remain solid, that looming unrestricted free agency is looking sweeter and sweeter. Hard to imagine him topping $6.3 million a year when Marc Savard(notes) just signed for almost $2.3 million less annually, but his stock is sky-high right about now.
Boy, just imagine how good the Kings would be if ... ah, never mind.
(Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings: This is the second season in a row in which Anze Kopitar(notes) has gone on a 10-game goal-scoring drought around December. The difference? He had five goals through two months last season vs. 14 this season. Cause for concern?)