It has been 21 years since any NHL player has scored 50 goals in 50 games, the rare feat that is one of the most impressive achievements in hockey history. Brett Hull was the last player to do just that during the 1991-92 campaign when he scored 50 times in exactly 50 games.
This season Patrick Marleau has caught the attention of every hockey fan around the world with his blistering start to the season, 9 goals through the first 6 games. So naturally we find ourselves wondering how many goals Marleau might end up scoring and could he make a run at 50?
Of course if Marleau were to pot 50 goals he’d have done so in fewer than 50 games, which would be all that more impressive. Hull was also the last player to hit the half century mark in goals in under 50 games, doing so in 1990-91 in 49 games. Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky are the only two other players to ever score that many times in under 50 games, with Gretzky’s record of 50 goals in 39 games being one that will never be broken.
Marleau, as mentioned is off to the type of start every player dreams of. The net probably looks as big as the ocean when he has the puck and he’s not missing many opportunities. Despite being held off the score sheet on Tuesday during San Jose’s 3-2 shootout win, Marleau still leads the league in both goals and points.
To get to 50 he’s going to need a lot of luck and most importantly, he’ll need to stay healthy. At 33-years of age, 14 NHL seasons behind him which has accumulated to more than 1,100 career games, Marleau’s track record is in his favor.
A seasoned veteran, Marleau has been somewhat of an iron-man having only missed a total of 31 games over those 14 seasons. The most he’s ever missed was his rookie year in 1997-98 where he was out of action in 8 games. To further reinforce his ability to stay healthy, he’s played in all 82 games the last three seasons. Check off health concerns, of course barring some unforeseen freak accident.
Perhaps the biggest roadblock in Marleau’s way is that he’s never scored 50 goals in a season throughout his career. His highest was 44 during the 2009-10 season and has scored 30 or more in just five seasons. Reaching the prestigious level would be a first for Marleau and with that fact against him, suddenly the scales tip back to even.
One benefit for Marleau that will increase his chances are to have play-maker Joe Thornton on his line. A natural set up man, Thornton prefers to dish the puck off instead of shooting it and Marleau is the perfect recipient with his hot hand. Joe Pavelski is the other winger on this line, who isn’t too shabby when it comes to setting up Marleau either.
Of course should Marleau continue his amazing run, with it will come the added pressure and attention from the media. Should he approach the 50 goal mark or even make it appear that it’s a realistic shot in a month’s time, Marleau wont’ be addressing questions related to the Sharks latest game. Instead everyone will want to know his take on the race to 50, something that will be a distraction to him and his teammates.
It’s unlikely that Marleau will score 50 goals this season and perhaps the most influential reason is the way the game is being played. Twenty years ago the game had a wide open pace to it. Now clutching and grabbing is being monitored but teams still find a way to clog up the neutral zone, use the left-wing lock or the dreaded trap to slow their opponent’s down.
A simple way to try and defend against Marleau would be to play a similar style and not allow him as much room to create scoring chances. That reason alone is enough to think that he won’t score 50 this season.
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