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Quick Thoughts: Why Marleau Over Leonard?; Boughner, Dubnyk Go Off

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Credit: NBCS Bay Area

Bob Boughner was unhappy with the linesman calling Patrick Marleau on a faceoff violation – some San Jose Sharks fans were unhappy with fourth-liner Marleau taking John Leonard’s spot on the second line with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier at the beginning of the middle frame.

The frustration over this maneuver is understandable: The 41-year-old Marleau has just a goal and four assists this season – and he looks like a shadow of even last season’s already-declining version of himself. Meanwhile, Leonard is a genuinely exciting rookie, one of the bright spots in a mostly disappointing San Jose campaign.

“Johnny had a tough first period. He actually played better when he went down on that line. I thought Patty played better when he went up. It just changed the look of it,” Boughner offered.

I see Boughner’s perspective too. Guaranteed, he is trying to win the game with this move. So what is he seeing in Marleau over Leonard, at least for one night?

These two second period plays were possible examples.

In a tight game, against an aggressive forechecking side, breaking the puck out can be trench warfare, one inch at a time. We see that here: Mario Ferraro (38) absorbs a Sammy Blais (9) hit to get Brent Burns (88) the puck. Burns shovels it forward to John Leonard (43), beating Mike Hoffman (68). Leonard is now a Dakota Joshua (54) from getting the puck out of the zone to Fredrik Handemark (37).

It doesn’t happen. Now I’m not saying this specific play is why Leonard got demoted – it could happen to anyone, Marleau included – but it’s also the type of detail play that Boughner wants Leonard to work on. Maybe Marleau gets the puck out 9 out of 10 times, the rookie 8 out of 10 right now. This kind of stuff matters.

Here’s the reverse, from Marleau:

That’s Marleau (12) who shovels it forward after a Nikolai Knyzhov (71) pass. It doesn’t get out, but it’s forward progress. More importantly, Marleau keeps his feet going and blocks Vladimir Tarasenko’s (91) attempt to toss the puck back down. Then Marleau bullies past Tarasenko and bats the puck out past Robert Bortuzzo (41), into the neutral zone. That’s tough, solid wall play.

I know, I know, nobody wants to hear about the details. But a good line isn’t always made up of your three most-skilled forwards. Just recently, Matt Nieto made a good show with Hertl and Meier because he’s a reliable, detail-oriented fit. Skill forwards can often use a “junkyard dog” to get them the puck. It wouldn’t surprise me if Boughner was thinking something like that, looking for someone to handle some of the dirty work for Hertl and Meier.

“I didn’t think Hertl’s line had many touches in the first period,” Boughner said. “It was just to mix things up, really.”

It didn’t work, but it was a reasonable gambit. You also have to consider the options too: If Leonard isn’t buzzing, and let’s say you’re keeping your first and third lines intact, Marleau becomes the clear choice to step up over Fredrik Handemark and Antti Suomela. And is Leonard’s ceiling so consistently high right now, he shouldn’t ever be demoted?

It’s an approachable status for Leonard – to some degree, Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are examples of younger forwards who have earned more rope after mistakes – but Leonard isn’t quite there yet either. Hence, Marleau.

Back to Jones?

Four goals against on 20 shots later, the San Jose Sharks’ goaltending situation appears to be in flux again.

Boughner didn’t spell it out this time, but he said enough: “We gave up eight chances against in a back-to-back game.”

That’s not a lot of chances to give up, period. In other words, Devan Dubnyk needed to be better. It’s the second straight subpar performance from him, will he get another chance on Monday versus Los Angeles?

It’s not an enviable choice for Boughner: Dubnyk’s .899 Save % or Jones’s .890. But it appears the San Jose goaltending carousel is soon to start up again.

Boughner, Dubnyk Fired Up About Faceoff Violation Penalty

Tied game in the third period, Patrick Marleau was whistled for a faceoff violation penalty.

Quick Ryan O’Reilly goal off the draw, the San Jose Sharks are down 3-2, on their way to a 5-2 loss. Bob Boughner and Devan Dubnyk were not happy.

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