In his first telephone conference with Bay Area media in September, Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson was asked about having the opportunity to play with fellow Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns.
“All I have to do is give [Burns] the puck and, you know, usually it takes care of the rest," he said enthusiastically.
In the ninth game of the 2018-19 NHL season, that exact scenario came to fruition.
The Sharks came back in dramatic fashion against the Western Conference-leading Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period to tie the score at 4. But the game-winner went to Burns on the power play. Karlsson had a swift feed from the blue line that teed No. 88 up perfectly, and Burns sank down on one knee as he rocketed the puck past Predators netminder Juuse Saros.
For some, that scenario featuring Karlsson setting Burns up so perfectly was a long time coming. But as Burns explained in his post-game interview, he and Karlsson have been developing that chemistry all along.
And, not surprisingly, Burns had nothing but positive things to say about his newest teammate in an interview with Jamie Baker on NBCSN.
“Me and [Karlsson] have been together almost as much as me and my wife over the last two weeks,” Burns said with a chuckle. “He’s been an awesome guy. He’s been really easy to get along with.”
While there certainly was no denying the two defensemen were getting along, they just hadn’t set each other up for a goal yet. Then they noticeably were split up and put on different power play units over the weekend, as Sharks coach Peter DeBoer tried to find the most productive combinations.
With only a small sample size of games to go off of, there was wonder if the two defensemen could generate offense on a unit together. Burns said after Tuesday’s victory that was far from the case.
“I think there’s people trying to say we want to play the same position. I played forward, so I don’t care where they put me on the PP,” he told Baker with a grin.
As far as Karlsson goes, there’s no denying his play has elevated with every game he’s played in a Sharks uniform. He’s logging more ice time than any other skater, and is ranked third in blocked shots (11) behind Marc-Edouard Vlasic (12) and Justin Braun (13). And with five assists early on in the season, including Tuesday night’s apple on Burns’ goal, he’s clearly just getting warmed up.
“It’s a matter of staying confident,” Burns said of Karlsson. “He’s a really confident guy, so he keeps things light. So, it’s been great getting to learn from him, play with him and get to watch him."