Sharks

Analysis: Which Sharks player will end up in Vegas?

Analysis: Which Sharks player will end up in Vegas?

There weren’t any major surprises on the Sharks’ expansion protected list that was unveiled on Sunday morning. The team protected the maximum number of players possible, choosing the option of seven forwards, three defensemen and goalie Martin Jones. Pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were left unprotected, which was expected.

Vegas will have to take one player - and one player only - from each of the 30 NHL teams. Let’s examine who might be on the move from San Jose.

Brenden Dillon

Why he will go to Vegas: Dillon is a young, improving defenseman under contract for the next three seasons. Although there isn’t much offense to his game, he brings a physical/toughness element, and has become more and more reliable in his own end with each passing season. Last season, it was evident he worked on his speed and skating over the summer. That’s the other thing about Dillon: he’s tireless in his effort to improve.

Why he will not: There were some talented young defensemen left available by other clubs, including Sami Vatanen, Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Jack Johnson, Jason Demers and Nate Schmidt. Dillon may not make the cut among the nine defensemen that Vegas is required to select.

Verdict: Dillon is probably the most likely player that the Sharks will lose. And, make no mistake, the Sharks would hate to lose him.

Joel Ward

Why he will go to Vegas: Ward previously played under Vegas GM George McPhee in Washington, so McPhee is surely aware of how respected Ward is around the league. If you’re looking to build a young team, as McPhee surely is, Ward would be the perfect guy to serve as a role model. Heck, he could even get consideration to be the first captain. 

Why he will not: At 36 years old, Ward’s best playing days are behind him. He went from 43 points in his first season with the Sharks to 29 last season. Ward has just one year left on his contract, too.

Verdict: Several people I've talked to think Ward will be the guy that goes to Vegas. I'd give him second-best odds behind Dillon.

Mikkel Boedker

Why he will go to Vegas: Boedker has already played nine years in the NHL, and had a couple 50-point seasons before joining the Sharks as a free agent and struggling to adjust in his first year in teal. Still, if there’s one player the Sharks would surely hold the exit door open for, it’s Boedker. Perhaps they even try to swing a deal with Vegas to include a pick or a prospect to entice the Golden Knights to select Boedker. If the Golden Knights need help getting to the salary cap floor, which they might, Boedker could make sense.

Why he will not: Boedker managed just 26 points in 81 games last season, and was a healthy scratch in two of the Sharks’ six playoff games against Edmonton, putting an exclamation point on his disappointing campaign. He has three years and $12 million remaining on his contract, which should scare away any suitor, Vegas or otherwise.

Verdict: Unless the Sharks are willing to part with a high-end prospect or high round draft pick - which I think is unlikely - I don't see why Vegas would be interested in Boedker and his contract unless they're desperate.

Paul Martin

Why he will go to Vegas: Just like Ward, Martin is a respected veteran that would bring instant credibility to the dressing room of what will surely be a young team. Perhaps, like Ward, he’s even captain material. Martin is also a guy McPhee surely knows well as he spent his entire career in the Eastern Conference before joining the Sharks two seasons ago. And, he can still serve as a reliable, defensive-minded defenseman.

Why he will not: Like we mentioned in regards to Dillon, there are probably better options on the blue line than a 36-year-old in the twilight of his career. And, although he’s remained generally healthy in San Jose, Martin has missed significant time in the past due to injury.

Verdict: Unlikely. That's probably just fine with the Sharks, as Martin remains an ideal partner for Brent Burns.

David Schlemko

Why he will go to Vegas: Schlemko is signed at a resonable $2.1 million salary for the next three years, and is a nice third-pairing defenseman who can contribute at both ends of the ice when he's on his game.

Why he will not: At 30 years old, he's not exactly young anymore, and there is no single part of Schlemko's game that stands out. There are better options around the league for the Golden Knights, including two defensemen on the Sharks' roster that are probably more appealing.

Verdict: I'd be surprised if Schlemko is Vegas' choice.

Joe Thornton

Why he will to go Vegas: Thornton, like teammate Patrick Marleau, is now free to negotiate with the Golden Knights. While adding a soon-to-be 38-year-old might not make sense for Vegas hockey-wise, this is still a small market team that has to sell tickets. Adding a future Hall of Famer to serve as the first real face of the franchise would do wonders from a marketing perspective. You'd have to think they’ll at least call Thornton’s camp to see if he might be interested.

Why he will not: Thornton wants to stay in San Jose, but if that doesn’t work out, he’ll want to go to a contender. The impression here is that at the very least, Thornton will want to see what kind of interest there is around the league when other teams are allowed to start speaking with him on June 25.

Verdict: No chance Thornton ends up in Vegas.

Patrick Marleau

Why he will to go Vegas: Like Thornton, Marleau would be a name that hockey fans in Las Vegas would instantly recognize, and he’d sell some tickets. Unlike Thornton, though, I’m not convinced Marleau wants to stay in San Jose. If he’d like to extend his career close to home, perhaps he’ll at least listen to what Vegas has to offer – if it is interested.

Why he will not: Also like Thornton, Marleau likely wants to play for a team that’s a contender if he doesn’t return to the Sharks. He’ll also want to see what other options might be out there on June 25, so signing with the Golden Knights wouldn’t make much sense – at least not yet.

Verdict: I think there's a slight chance Marleau ends up with the Golden Knights, but if he does, it wouldn't be until July 1 at the earliest.

NHL playoffs: How Sharks can, can't beat Vegas in Game 7, advance

NHL playoffs: How Sharks can, can't beat Vegas in Game 7, advance

The Sharks improbably kept their season alive Sunday with a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 6, forcing a decisive Game 7 in their Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. 

San Jose trailed three to one after four games and looked dead in the water but now has won the last two. Martin Jones kept the Game 7 door ajar with a franchise-record 58 saves through four periods and change Sunday. With the Sharks facing a penalty kill in the second overtime, Tomas Hertl did his best Mark Messier impression to bust it wide open.

Now, the Sharks have their first-ever chance to eliminate the Golden Knights on Tuesday at SAP Center. So, here’s how San Jose can advance to the second round -- and how the 2018-19 season could end on home ice.

The Sharks can win if …

Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen and Joe Thornton get on the scoresheet

Since Thornton returned from his one-game suspension in Game 6, the Sharks’ third line arguably has been their best. Although the trio has been out-shot against the Golden Knights in the last two games, they have generated more quality chances than their opposition.

Per Natural Stat Trick, San Jose controlled 59.95 percent of the expected goals and 66.67 percent of the high-danger chances with that line on the ice in Games 5 and 6. That hasn’t turned into a goal yet, but could lead to a critical one in Game 7 if they keep it up.

Just two of the Golden Knights’ bottom-six forwards (Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin) have scored a goal in this series, and 17 of 21 have come from players on Vegas’ first and second lines. Thornton, Labanc and Barclay Goodrow are the Sharks’ only bottom-six forwards to score so far, and San Jose could use a goal (or two) from someone in that group to create separation in Game 7.

Both teams have relied on their stars offensively so far, and depth contributions ultimately could push one of them through to the second round. If the Sharks’ third line continues to develop quality chances, they just might be the ones to do it.

[RELATED: Hertl's game-winner highlights breakout season]

The Sharks can’t win if …

Martin Jones relents under the Golden Knights’ pressure

Jones was at his best Sunday when the team in front of him was not. Through just over 82-and-a-half minutes of 5-on-5 play, the Sharks ceded the vast majority of puck possession.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Golden Knights:

  • Out-attempted the Sharks, 111-63
  • Out-shot the Sharks, 56-26
  • Out-chanced the Sharks, 33-29
  • Won the high-danger chance battle, 16-11

Sunday was an extreme example of the disparities that Jones has faced during this series as a whole, with the Golden Knights edging the Sharks in every major 5-on-5 puck-possession category through six games. He stood tall in the face of said pressure in each of the last two, allowing only one full-strength goal as San Jose tried to protect narrow leads at various stages in both games.

That’s a stark turnaround, considering Jones posted an .836 5-on-5 save percentage through the series' first four games. Jones has faced a lower rate of high-danger shots and expected goals in the last two games than he did prior, but he still has seen more rubber at full strength than Marc-Andre Fleury has in the opposite crease.

The Sharks and Golden Knights have each averaged two-and-a-half power play opportunities in the last two games, compared to five and five-and-a-half, respectively, in the previous four contests. The whistles probably won’t come out much more in a decisive Game 7, and the Golden Knights have been the better 5-on-5 team.

If that continues in Game 7 and Jones falters, the Sharks’ in-series comeback will be for naught.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 double-OT Game 6 win in Vegas

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 double-OT Game 6 win in Vegas

BOX SCORE

You don't get much more Stanley Cup playoff drama than this. And the Sharks made sure they'll have one more game of it.

After five games of relatively emotional hockey, the Sharks and the Golden Knights played a tight-checking Game 6 at a ferocious pace in what was a pivotal moment for both teams. Vegas had an opportunity to clinch the first-round series on home ice, and San Jose had a chance to force a winner-take-all Game 7.

In the end, Tomas Hertl -- who told the SAP Center crowd after Game 5 that the Sharks would be back Tuesday for a Game 7 -- scored while the Sharks were short-handed 11:17 into the second overtime to give them a 2-1 win.

Here are three takeaways from Game 6 at T-Mobile Arena:

Two words: Martin. Jones.

Any of the Sharks goalie's teammates will tell you he's one cool customer. According to defenseman Brenden Dillon, Jones isn't one to pore over what's said about him on social media. That makes you wonder what was going through his head before Game 6.

Jones was coming off a strong Game 5, but he also was returning to Vegas, where he struggled mightily in Games 3 and 4. There's no denying that a bulk of the focus was on which Jones would show up between the pipes in Game 6.

Needless to say, he was the Sharks' star of the game, after making an all-time franchise-record 58 saves.

San Jose was pinned in its own zone for a good portion of the second period, when Vegas scored its lone goal. But Jones' best save came at the start of the third period, when he absolutely robbed Reilly Smith after the Sharks turned over the puck in the neutral zone. San Jose was completely hemmed in its own zone in the final frame of regulation, not getting a shot on goal for over four minutes.

Without Jones' outstanding performance, the game wouldn't have gone into two OTs.

The celly will be short-lived

No time for the Sharks to celebrate too hard after that win, as it's on to preparations for Game 7 on home ice.

While San Jose did some good things Sunday -- or, in Jones' case, some great things -- it must be better Tuesday. The Sharks were abysmal in the face-off circle, losing 57 of 101 draws, and they had difficulty clearing the puck out of their own zone in the final 40 minutes, giving the Knights far too many chances.

No stopping now

The Sharks need to stop giving the opposition the opportunity to hang around and make things interesting. San Jose looked so worn down by the end of the regulation that it's a wonder the team had anything left in the tank in overtime, let alone double OT.

They have one shot at advancing and facing the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. With momentum gained from this Game 6 win, the Sharks can't miss it.