Sharks vs. Blackhawks: Patrick vs. Patrick

The Sharks are on the second night of back-to-backs against the reigning Stanley Cup champions at 5:00 pm tonight. The game will also provide a match-up of two Olympic hopefuls who might be competing for the same spot on the Canadian roster.

The way the 2013-2014 season has gone so far, it's hard to argue that the Blackhawks and Sharks aren't two of the elite teams in the NHL. And elite teams are made with elite players. Canada will be releasing its Olympic roster on Tuesday, and both Chicago and San Jose both ice multiple candidates for the team. For Patrick Marleau and Patrick Sharp, there's a good chance that they're competing for the same roster spot.

Our counterparts over at Eyes on the Prize made their projections a few days ago and had Marleau as the left wing on a tantalizingly responsible fourth line with Logan Couture and Patrice Bergeron. But couldn't Sharp play that role as well? Sure, Marleau and Couture have chemistry. But Sharp could also play with Jonathan Toews, who is sure to be a lock. And Sharp is currently second in the NHL with 25 goals. Then again, Marleau has more size and experience from the 2010 Olympics. Technically, they could both make the team, but there are plenty of other forwards in the mix for a spot as well. Let's decide who wins this battle.

And that battle is a lot tougher to sort out than you might think.

The Patricks are remarkably similar. Both are speedy, goal-scoring, two-way players who can play in any situation and at any one of the forward positions, but seem to stick at left wing more than anywhere else. And since the last Olympics, their stats are remarkably alike.

Patrick Marleau since 2010 Olympics
Regular Season 274 109 119 228 13 78 35 5 22 896 12.1
Playoffs 48 20 14 34 -5 23 7 1 4 165 12.1
Patrick Sharp since 2010 Olympics
Regular Season 241 104 115 219 61 118 27 4 19 873 11.9
Playoffs 58 25 19 44 10 30 8 1 3 222 11.3

Marleau seems to be a bit more durable, while Sharp is scoring at a slightly higher rate. The only real, glaring difference is +/-. That's not the most reliable stat - and likely has more to do with the teams around them then their play themselves. So, should Canada go with Marleau's experience, or Sharp's hot hand? Let's look closer at this season so far.

2013-2014 Season Comparison

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG Shots S% Corsi For% Relative Corsi PDO Off/Def Zone% PP TOI/G SH TOI/G
Marleau 42 19 22 41 8 6 7 1 2 160 11.9 54.8 +2.4 1008 45.2 3:56 1:42
Sharp 44 25 20 45 22 24 7 0 2 171 14.6 58.1 +3.8 1032 62.7 3:16 0:02

On the surface, the Patricks may be having very similar seasons again. They're both roughly at a point-per-game pace, and are producing shots at nearly the same rate. Sharp's just been cashing in on a few more of those shots - especially as of late.

Looking at the advanced stats paints a slightly different picture, in usage, at least. Marleau is being relied on for much heavier lifting defensively. Marleau is getting significant time on the penalty kill and is starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone, while Sharp is getting the majority of his in the offensive zone. This likely accounts for the difference in their Corsi and scoring this season.

They seem to be the same player, playing different roles. If the Patricks are up for the same roster spot, the role Canada needs may decide the player they take: Marleau for a shutdown role with Couture, Sharp for a secondary scoring role with Toews. If you wanted a clear victor here, you might be disappointed. If I had to give someone the edge, it'd probably be Marleau. But I'm probably biased. It's basically a coin-flip: let's go to the shootout.

San Jose Sharks


Chicago Blackhawks
26-10-6, 58 points
29-7-8, 66 points
2nd in Pacific
1st in Central

5PM PST | United Center | Chicago, Illinois
TV: NBCSN | Radio:, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: Second City Hockey, The Committed Indian, Hockee Night

Projected Sharks Lineup

Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Bracken Kearns

Eriah Hayes - Freddie Hamilton - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Projected Blackhawks Lineup

Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Michal Handzus - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Kris Versteeg

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Johnny Oduya

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Prediction: Sharks win 3-2 in a shootout. Everyone named Patrick scores a goal. And also James Sheppard, who changes his name to Patrick Sheppard during second intermission. Meanwhile, everyone in the Chicago area wins if they go to my family's pizza place!