After a six game losing streak, it is safe to say that a three game winning streak has put the Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks back on track.
On Saturday night the Sharks dispatched the current NorthWest division leading Vancouver Canucks by a 4-2 final.
Unfortunately for San Jose, both Joe Thornton and Manny Malhotra sustained injuries in the victory. Thornton's looked to be of the more serious variety, awkwardly slamming into the boards late in the second period.
Malhotra on the other hand ended up taking a deflected shot to the face in the third period and was in need of major repairs but should be good to go against Colorado later today.
However, despite the injury concerns, the bigger story line to come out of the win over Vancouver was the four point night from Patrick Marleau.
By contributing in one way or another on all four goals, Marleau now has 80 points on the year and is on pace to finish between 87-88 points which would best his career high of 86 set back in 2005-2006.
But not only is Marleau on pace for a career point total but his goal scoring has drastically improved the last two seasons.
Before setting career highs in goals both last season with 38 and so far this season with 42, Marleau had averaged just 23.8 goals per season in his 10 previous years in the league.
Perhaps like a fine wine, Marleau might be getting better with age. And the way the former long time Shark captain has been skating in recent games, that isn't a far-fetched assumption.
Unlike years past when Marleau often seemed indecisive on how to attack the defense, the Saskatchewan native finally appears to realize that he can out-skate every single player in the league.
Combine that sense of offensive dominance with improved play in the defensive zone, and Marleau is clearly more valuable to the Sharks than Thornton.
Over the three game winning streak, Marleau has never looked better, tallying five meaningful points compared to Thornton's single meaningful assist. (both contributed points on empty net goals during the streak).
Now of course, no Sharks fan wants to see Thornton go down with a serious injury and the sooner he is able to return the better.
However, at this point in time, Marleau staying healthy (knock on wood) is more critical to San Jose's potential playoff success.
At no point in his career, has Thornton ever had what can be considered a "impressive" playoffs. But for the most part Marleau has been a superb postseason performer.
Prior to last year's playoffs, Marleau had registered 51 points in his last 64 postseason games.
Thornton on the other hand had registered only 48 points in his last 64 postseason games.
Now three points may not seem like much of a difference until you realize that in the regular season, Thornton scores at a much higher rate than Marleau.
During the regular season, Thornton averages 1.01 points per game compared to Marleau who averages .72 points per game.
Flip to the playoffs and Marleau averages .79 points per game and Thornton averages point .75 (again, in each player's previous 64 playoff games prior to the 2008-09 playoffs).
Now why do I fail to include Thornton's five points in six playoff games last season compared to Marleau's three points (which would make the numbers much more similar)?
Because Marleau was injured during last year's playoffs. He missed five of the last seven regular season games and clearly wasn't back to 100% during the postseason.
However, when healthy, Marleau has proven time and time again over his career to be a better clutch performer during the postseason.
Therefore, if the Sharks are hoping to put their recent playoff disappointments behind them, it will be the play of Marleau, not Thornton, that leads them over the hump.