Sharks

Erik Karlsson, Sharks can learn from P.K. Subban's first Predators season

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AP

Erik Karlsson, Sharks can learn from P.K. Subban's first Predators season

The Sharks are in a position that’s familiar to the Nashville Predators.

San Jose is 9-6-3 in 18 games after acquiring two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in a blockbuster trade. Two years ago, Nashville was 8-7-3 in 18 games after acquiring Norris winner P.K. Subban in a blockbuster trade. 

The parallels are obvious. They’re both right-handed, puck-moving defensemen with accomplished resumes who switched conferences. 

But the circumstances -- and the players themselves -- are not identical.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson on the eve of training camp, while the Predators landed Subban before the start of free agency two summers ago. Subban largely filled the role of the defenseman he was traded for (Shea Weber), while Karlsson’s arrival rearranged a depth chart that featured another Norris Trophy winner in Brent Burns. 

[RELATED: Where Sharks stand in Pacific]

What might be the biggest difference, however, is that Karlsson isn’t off to the same offensive start that Subban was.

Subban came out of the gates firing. He scored on his first shot on goal -- and second attempt -- with the Predators. In his first 18 games, Subban scored 13 points, including seven on the power play. 

Karlsson, meanwhile, still is searching for his first goal with the Sharks. He picked up seven assists in his first 11 games, but he was held off the scoresheet in each of his last seven games. That’s not for a lack of trying, though. 

In his first 18 games with the Sharks, Karlsson fired 52 pucks on net. Subban, meanwhile, had 42 shots through his first 18 games. Five-on-five, Karlsson actually is shooting at a higher rate at this point with the Sharks than Subban was with the Predators.

5v5 stats, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick
  Karlsson (2018-19) Subban (2016-17)
Shots/60 7.1 4.55
CF/60 19.12 8.56
FF/60 11.11 6.19
SCF/60 3.46 1.28
HDCF/60 0.18 0.36

What’s been the biggest difference in their respective starts? Individual finishing. 

Subban scored on 8 percent of his five-on-five shots in his first 18 games with the Predators, while his teammates scored on 3.9 percent of theirs with him on the ice. Karlsson, so far, has the opposite problem. He didn’t score on any of his 39 five-on-five shots, and his teammates scored on 8.2 percent of theirs. 

Finishing made the difference on the power play, too. Although Karlsson didn’t shoot nearly as much as Subban on the man advantage through 18 games, he wasn’t as lucky, either. Subban scored on two of his 14 shots, while Karlsson scored on none of his eight. 

Subban and Karlsson's respective starts both show how volatile a small sample size can be. Karlsson scored on 6.8 percent of his shots in all situations entering this season, and already would have about three goals -- 3.6, to be exact, but we’ll round down -- if he converted at that rate. Subban, meanwhile, entered his first season in Nashville with a 5.8 percent career shooting percentage. Yet, he scored on 11.9 percent of his shots at the start of his Predators tenure. 

Ultimately, Subban finished the season shooting closer to what was his career average. He converted on 5.0 percent of his shots in his final 48 games, scoring as many goals (five) as he did in his first 18 appearances.

The best predictor of the rest of Subban’s first season in Nashville proved to be his own career. That doesn’t mean the same thing is guaranteed to happen to Karlsson in San Jose, but the Sharks surely wouldn’t mind to see it turn out that way.

Matt Duchene trade: What deal means for Sharks before NHL deadline

Matt Duchene trade: What deal means for Sharks before NHL deadline

The Sharks will see the newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. 

Forward Matt Duchene, who the Blue Jackets acquired from the Ottawa Senators on Friday for a package centered on two prospects and two first-round picks, will suit up against San Jose on Saturday. 

Beyond the immediate implications for their next game, the Blue Jackets trading for Duchene has trade-deadline ramifications for the Sharks -- both good and bad. 

The good news for San Jose is that Duchene won't join a contender in the Western Conference.The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets were among the teams linked to Duchene in the lead-up to the deadline. Friday's trade takes one of the best available forwards off the market, meaning those teams -- as well as the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights -- will have to look elsewhere for help up front. 

There are still plenty of top-flight forwards available. Duchene's now-former Senators teammate Mark Stone and current Blue Jackets teammate Artemi Panarin come to mind. Beyond them, players like Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds and New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello would figure to make up the next tier of forwards for contenders looking for help at the deadline. 

That's where the downside of Duchene's trade comes in for the Sharks, as the timing of the deal could price San Jose out of making an acquisition. 

As Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman noted earlier this week, the Sharks' lack of a first-round pick in the next two drafts "[limits] what they can do" at the deadline. Friedman figured trade values for players like Simmonds and Zuccarello would drop the longer Duchene, Panarin, and Stone were still on the market, and that would benefit Sharks general manager Doug Wilson as he reportedly looks to add a winger. 

Now, Duchene has a new home and Panarin might not even be on the move. The Blue Jackets reportedly are happy to hang on to the Russian winger in their playoff push, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

Those notions already seem to be affecting team's asking prices. The Rangers are looking for "high picks or a high pick and a prospect" for Zuccarello, TSN's Darren Dreger reported on Friday.

The Sharks still have second-round picks in each of the next two drafts, but only 10 total selections in 2020 and 2021. Friedman reported on Tuesday that they're telling teams forward prospect Sasha Chmelevski isn't availabe, and defenseman Ryan Merkley is the only former first-rounder in San Jose's system after Josh Norris was included in the Erik Karlsson trade. 

[RELATED: Sharks were 'happy to olbige' Penguins with scuffles]

In other words, San Jose probably wouldn't be able to win any bidding wars ahead of the deadline, and Duchene's trade makes the prospect of one more likely. 

That's not necessarily a bad thin for the Sharks. They will enter Saturday's game against the Blue Jackets no more than three points back of the Flames for first place in the Pacific Division and the conference. 

But, the Sharks' rivals are still trying to improve, and matching any potential moves might've just gotten more difficult. 

Sharks not surprised by late-game tussles in blowout win over Penguins

Sharks not surprised by late-game tussles in blowout win over Penguins

Even though the Sharks and Penguins only play each other twice a season, things tend to get a bit chippy when they meet up on the ice. The bad blood no doubt stems from when these teams faced off in the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. And boy, did the fists fly in the third period of Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.

Fans watching at home almost missed the line brawl that took place in front of Pittsburgh’s bench during a TV timeout in the last four-plus minutes of regulation. Evander Kane, Brenden Dillon, and newly-reacquired forward Micheal Haley began pushing and shoving with members of the Penguins, and things quickly escalated. The ordeal ended with Haley coming to Dillon’s defense and shoving Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby down onto the ice. 

Haley -- known for his physicality and holding opposing players accountable for their actions -- chuckled about the scuffle afterward.

“It seems to happen whenever I’m on the ice, which is a good thing I guess,” he told the press after the game. “I have no idea actually how (it started). I saw Kane over there with one of their guys and came over, and it doesn’t take long for things to ignite. And then you’re in the box.”

Haley may not have known how the debacle he was part of got started, but Kane admitted in his postgame interview that he might have gotten the scuffle going when he went by Pittsburgh’s bench.

“I was just checking out the play they were running because I could see the board pretty clearly,” he answered honestly. “I guess they didn’t like that very much and wanted to take exception -- and I was happy to oblige.” 

Whatever the reason was for the escalated incident, Sharks’ head coach Peter DeBoer admitted afterward that he could understand where the Penguins were coming from.

“We’ve been on the other end of those,” DeBoer said. “You’re down three-or-four-nothing and there’s frustration. Those things happen.”

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' shutout victory over Penguins]

The fisticuffs ended with four skaters leaving the ice with game misconduct penalties and Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan getting tossed for inflammatory language. Seconds after the next faceoff, the Sharks drew a penalty and Brent Burns scored the nail-in-the-coffin power-play goal that put the finishing touches on San Jose's 4-0 victory. While the Sharks likely don’t want to be getting in full-on line brawls every evening, at least things went in their favor in the end.