Patrick Marleau proved he can play anywhere in the lineup through the first 50 games of the season; but what’s his best line? Marleau has played well on the first line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the third line with Chris Tierney and Joel Ward and recently on the second line with Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker.
Now that he has 60 minutes under his belt with Couture and Boedker we can better evaluate if that should be a permanent fixture in the San Jose lineup. The early returns have been extremely good by the eye test, but do the stats line up? In a word: yerp. Check out the graphic below to see how the lines stack up against one another.
Some housekeeping on those numbers before we move on: all numbers are 5v5 and from our friends over at corsica.hockey. XGOALS = expected goals. You can read more about that, and all the other stats, over here. It’s worth noting we’re dealing with small sample sizes here with the exception of the Captain Line.
The numbers speak for themselves: Marleau needs to stick on the second line, at least for the time being, and the Sharks can figure out the rest of the lineup around it. Boedker has looked as good as he has all season while playing with Marleau and Couture and that’s as good a reason as any to keep the line together; besides, Thornton and Pavelski don’t need Marleau on the top line to make the machine work.
Tierney and Ward make more sense as a fourth line combo than a third line, so putting Marleau back down with them never made much sense, anyway. Marleau has seen time with Tomas Hertl on the third line this season, a pairing that bore some fruit this season. Still, you only need to see some of the following spectacular stats posted by the Marleau-Boedker-Couture line to be convinced the line deserves more time (and I realize I’m preaching to the choir here).
- The MBC Line has seven goals, just six fewer than the Captain Line in a fifth of the time on ice.
- Patrick Marleau has three goals on the MBC Line. He has two with Tierney and Ward and five on the Captain Line.
- The MBC Line has the best scoring chance differential with a +8.
- The MBC Line has the best xGF60 on the Sharks with a 4.73 mark (minimum 50 minutes).
- This line needs a better nickname. Please help me.
It’s still too early for any of this to be definitive, but at least for now this line needs to stay together. I know I’ve made offhand remarks about splitting this group off both in other posts and on the Fear the Fin Twitter account, but a closer look at the numbers and seeing more of their play has me convinced that this is an experiment that needs to go on for at least a while longer.
Here’s how I’d line up the Sharks with that in mind when Joonas Donskoi comes up. I’m up for swapping Karlsson and Meier, but this works fine, too.
Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Mikkel Boedker
Kevin Labanc - Tomas Hertl - Joonas Donskoi
Timo Meier - Chris Tierney - Joel Ward