Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.


Blood Brothers? Evander Kane adds Sharks to his wolf pack in Vegas

NBC Sports Bay Area

Blood Brothers? Evander Kane adds Sharks to his wolf pack in Vegas

The Sharks are in Vegas Thursday night for Game 1 of their Round 2 matcup with the Golden Knights. And Evander Kane has something to say. Or as Kane is better known by his real friends, Alan Garner.

Kane, no longer a lone wolf, scored three goals and one assists in the Sharks' Round 1 sweep of the Ducks. He agrees where he stands in this wolf pack too. 

Game 1 starts Thursday night with puck drop at 7 p.m. Pregame coverage starts with Sharks Playoffs Central at 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports California. 

Five things to think about as the Sharks finally open Round 2 vs Las Vegas


Five things to think about as the Sharks finally open Round 2 vs Las Vegas

Either the Sharks or Golden Knights will take the Stanley Cup.

That’s what history suggests.

Both teams swept their prior rounds, which has only happened seven times before. 

And in six of those seven instances… the winner of this dual-post-sweep series has gone on to hoist the Cup.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. 

But entering this Round 2 series, there are no shortage of hopes and storylines on both sides.

1: There could be some rough beginnings on both sides.

Hockey players aren’t programmed to have seven days off between games.  The Sharks and Golden Knights will be resuming game action after their longest respective layoffs since last summer.  Does one team suffer from rust more than the other?  Does everybody go back to feeling normal after 20 minutes?  Timing, hands, lungs and legs are all bound to be affected by the inability to replicate game speed in respective practice sessions.  That’s just about the only thing we DO know.

2: There’s an unbelievable goalie matchup in this series.

In Round 1, Martin Jones allowed only four goals with one shutout, while Marc-Andre Fleury allowed three goals and pitched two shutouts.  How can anyone rightfully predict a high scoring series here in Round 2?  Logan Couture called Jones, “…a great goaltender that no one talks about”.  On the other side is Marc-Andre, formerly of Penguins fame.  He’s got three Stanley Cup rings, but is largely not credited for the last two.  After being exposed by Pittsburgh in the expansion draft, Fleury has the fresh start with a storybook team that any goaltender would dream of.

3: The adversity factor.

It’s not how you take defeat, it’s how you respond the next time.  Losing a playoff game (especially in multiple overtimes) can be mentally deflating.  And it is something that one side will experience on Thursday night for the first time.  Short memories are imperative here in the second season.  We know the Sharks (largely together for several years) have been through that kind of situation many times before.  We also know the Golden Knights (as an expansion team) have individual experience, but have never really had to rebound as a group.  Think about this, their longest losing skid even in the regular season was ONLY three games (twice).

4: If you’re the Sharks, stay the course.

San Jose looked really good in their first four games.  Not just getting winning results, but actually seeming to further galvanize as the series progressed.  Far as matchups with Vegas and all the small tinkering a Head Coach could possibly do… there is no better way for Pete DeBoer to start his Round 1 lineup card, than exactly how he ended it in Round 1.  His (amusing) quote in a press conference gives the best perspective: “We just won four straight against a great hockey team and I’d be an idiot to make lineup changes. We’ll let you guys overthink that. Make as many lineup changes as you want… but unless we find it necessary, why would you mess with how we’re playing right now?”

5: Maybe this is the start of something beautiful?

What if the Sharks remain a perennial powerhouse in the Pacific Division, and the Golden Knights are more than just an inaugural season surprise?  Wouldn’t it be outstanding if San Jose and Las Vegas could cultivate a long-standing future rivalry that truly began with this Round 2 series in 2018?  No offense to Los Angeles or Anaheim, but we’ve been down those roads many times before.  Finding a new team that you love to hate is almost a gift in itself.