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January 29, 2010

Big Game Players?

Long time readers know that prior to the 2009-10 season I was vehemently opposed to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau making the 2010 Canadian Olympic team. For all their impressive point totals, time and time again they have failed to come through in big games and under pressure.

My thought process began swaying when the San Jose Sharks acquired Dany Heatley, a Team Canada regular, in the summer. I figured a Thornton-Heatley combo would prove so lethal in the regular season that I resigned myself to the idea there would be no way Canada could not take Jumbo Joe.

Then the Sharks loaded up the line by including Marleau too, and for stretches he has been the best of three. In the interest of instant chemistry in a short tournament, I advocated the inclusion of all three Sharks players, poor playoff and Olympic histories be damned.

I do not know if any Canadian player will ever face as much pressure as they will in Vancouver. Which brings me back to the Shark trio and their reputation for disappearing in big games. With Canada relying on these three players greatly, how are they going to handle this pressure?

The Sharks, for much of the season the best team in the NHL this season, have not had a lot of "big games" this season, but if they have it would be the four showdowns with the Chicago Blackhawks for the title of best team in the West, if not the entire NHL. Here's how the three fared:

What I see are average offensive numbers from three of Canada's top scorers and poor defensive ratings.

San Jose's big line needs to produce at the Olympics. They do provide big numbers heading into the tournament and instant chemistry, but they also bring some concern about their ability to get the job done.

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