Clowe out for Game 6; can Marleau step up for Sharks?

In his last 16 playoff games against the Detroit Red Wings, Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks has just two goals and two assists. They all came in last postseason's five-game elimination of the Wings. Which means Patrick Marleau has barely made a dent against Detroit otherwise.

He didn't tally a point in 2007 during a six-game loss to Detroit, skating to a minus-5. This postseason, he's meekly limped to a minus-1 and zero points, getting abused by Pavel Datsyuk for the Game 5 game-winner and then getting called out by Jeremy Roenick on national television as being "gutless."

This is because, as Roenick told Working The Corners, he is not a Patrick Marleau admirer:

"This is totally on the record," he said. "I am not a Patrick Marleau fan. I'm not going to pretend to be. But I also will tell you that he is an incredible, incredible talent. I wish I had the talent he has. If I had the talent Patrick Marleau has, I wouldn't even know what I could have done. But I have my opinion of his determination and effort level, especially with the amount of money that he makes. I respect people's opinions, but I have one, too. I really feel that the San Jose Sharks, the fans, and Doug Wilson deserve a better effort than they have gotten on a lot of nights in this series. And I have the ability to say that. This is not an act. This is me speaking my mind. Patrick Marleau has a lot of fans. I just happen to be not one of them."

He does have a lot of fans, and they're all trying to soften the blow. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News said, "If Marleau's truly guilty of anything, it's that he is criminally not as good as Datsyuk." Pierre LeBrun of ESPN also doesn't buy the "gutless" claim:

Gutless? Don't think so. He wants to win. He's a good teammate. He gave up the "C" without rocking the boat and put the team's needs ahead of his.  At the end of the day, however, he's paid to score goals. And that needs to happen starting Tuesday night.

The fact is that it needs to.

CSN California reports that "Sharks' LW Ryane Clowe did not make the trip to Detroit and will not play in tonight's Game 6 due to an unspecified injury."

That's 13 points out of the lineup for the Sharks — Clowe is their leading playoff scorer — and a pivotal player off of what's been their best line.

Can Marleau be the one to step up and fill that offensive void?

Marleau addressed Roenick's comments Monday, via Working The Corners:

"Someone told me about them this morning," Marleau said. "I can't control what people say. I have to focus on what I can control and that's what I'm going to do."

He then proceeded to say the same thing about five different ways. Marleau, who is scoreless in this series, did add that he feels like he's ready to break out of the scoring slump.  "I do feel points are going to come," he said. "I've been all around it, close to the net and getting some good chances. It's bound to happen."

Patrick Marleau has appeared in 18 playoff games in which the San Jose Sharks had an opportunity to eliminate an opponent. He's scored six goals, four assists and skated to a plus-1.

Which is fine, but not clutch.

That's pretty much the description for Marleau in the playoffs, isn't it? There are series in which his lack of production is glaring, such as in this one against the Red Wings and back in 2007 against the same opponent. But he's usually lingering near the top or middle of the score sheet at the end of the playoffs for the Sharks, providing offense that no one can really recall happening during any postseason game.

Since 2004, Marleau has appeared in 33 games in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. He has 10 goals, eight assists for 18 points.

Which is fine, but not clutch.

As his coach told the Mercury News ahead of Game 6:

"He needs to be better," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who declined to specifically address Roenick's condemnation of Marleau. "It's as simple as that. We need him to be better offensively and defensively. But he's one individual. There are others on that line. There's a D-pair on the ice. There's a goaltender. There are a number of people who have to pick up their play."

The "he's just one guy" ass-coverage has been happening for years with Marleau. And the knives in the media have never been as sharp for him as they have when, say, Joe Thornton wouldn't perform. He's a nice guy. He doesn't duck the press. There's almost a sense of piling on when he's slammed as a scapegoat.

It's hard to think of any way in which Patrick Marleau could be more motivated for Tuesday night's game — pointless in a series that's slipping away, seeing a leading scorer go down, called out lightly by his coach and harshly by an ex-teammate.

Fine isn't good enough Tuesday night for Marleau. He needs to be clutch, especially with Clowe out.

And if that happens, Roenick will have a difficult time with postgame commentary while he eats his words. That's what's on the line for Patrick Marleau on Tuesday night, along with what's on the line for his team.

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