Sharks

Erik Karlsson's health becoming increasingly concerning for Sharks

sharksidebarusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Erik Karlsson's health becoming increasingly concerning for Sharks

Suffice to say, things got pretty dicey for the Sharks when players started getting hurt and leaving the ice during Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Bruins. No injury got more attention, though, than whatever Erik Karlsson sustained.

That’s right. The two-time Norris Trophy winner, who previously missed nine straight games with a lower-body injury, appears to still be dealing with some ongoing issues. With just 18 games left in the regular season, the stress surrounding Karlsson’s health becomes even more intense.

The defenseman, in his return to the ice since aggravating a groin injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, fell awkwardly in the second period of Tuesday’s game and headed straight for the dressing room. He returned later in the period but didn’t look like his dominant self. 

He was then absent from the Sharks’ bench for the entire third period -- and questions regarding whether he re-tweaked the injury began to swirl.

“You guys saw what I saw,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media in Boston after the game. “He stumbled. He spun around and looked like he tweaked something again and tried to go back out there. I don’t have a report yet.”

DeBoer told the press he didn’t have an update on Karlsson’s health, to the point he couldn’t readily identify if it was the wrong decision to let him play on Tuesday evening. 

“Anytime somebody gets hurt, there’s regret,” he told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic. “But I really don’t know. Same injury, different injury, I have no idea what we’re dealing with yet.”

While the exact status of Karlsson’s ailment hasn’t been revealed yet, one thing is for sure: With just 18 games left on the regular season docket, San Jose needs him healthy and in the lineup.

“We saw what he can do when he gets rolling and we know what kind of player he is,” Sharks' captain Joe Pavelski said. “I think moving forward that’s probably one of the biggest things, getting his health back. Get him moving and skating and stuff. Because he is a great talent for us and it’s tough to see him not be able to move out there.”

There’s no doubt Karlsson is even more frustrated. Just before his initial return on February 16 against the Vancouver Canucks, No. 65 divulged to the press that not being able to help his team win games was difficult for him. 

“I think no matter what, you always have that itch when you’re out,” he told NBC Sports California at the time. “It’s one of the worst feelings you could have.”

[RELATED: Karlsson picked up newly acquired Nyquist from airport]

Whether that feeling pushed Karlsson to stay out on the ice longer than he should've been on Tuesday against the Bruins is anyone’s guess. But as Pavelski said, it’s a big priority now for the defenseman to get healthy.

The Sharks are set to play 12 of their last 18 games on home ice, and 15 of 18 against the Western Conference -- a big deal for a Sharks team still trying to catch up to the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division race. If San Jose is going to be solid down the stretch and into the playoffs, they’ll need to be as healthy as possible.

Erik Karlsson’s health is an enormous part of that equation.

Where does series stand after Sharks' season-saving win in Game 5?

Where does series stand after Sharks' season-saving win in Game 5?

Twenty-five years to the day since their very first playoff game, the Sharks evaded elimination Thursday night at SAP Center, and reinvigorated the fanbase with a convincing performance in their 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

This series has shown two sides of San Jose — Games 1 and 5, where they were decidedly the better team through 60 minutes and controlled much of the play. That's a sharp contrast to Games 2, 3, and 4 — where it looked like summer could have an unfortunate early start after three convincing wins from Vegas.

Here are five observations from the Sharks' 5-2 win that sent the series back to Vegas with the San Jose trailing 3-2:

Jones steps up

Martin Jones was the headliner of Game 5, and he deserves to be. This was a critical decision for Peter DeBoer to give Jones the starting assignment -- some would even say against the grain -- after Jones had been pulled in each of the previous two losses.

It was a solid performance by the Sharks’ primary netminder through the first 40-plus minutes, but it turned into an exceptional one when he stoned Reilly Smith in the third period.

That “wow” moment later led to a Sharks power play which saw Tomas Hertl give San Jose some insurance by lighting the lamp to extend the lead to two.

Puck possession that didn’t feed transition

The Sharks' prior two losses saw them struggle in the face-off circle, winning just 45 percent and 46 percent in Games 3 and 4, respectively. All San Jose did in Game 5 was win a whopping 63 percent of its draws, which led to the domino effect of having the puck, and not turning it over. This limited the quantity and quality of opportunities for Vegas, and therefore helped the cause in the crease.

The Sharks in front of Jones didn’t have to ask for a ton of (extra) key saves because they didn’t allow a ton of (extra) key chances.

Complete (early) role reversal

When the Sharks scored 76 seconds into the game, they gained the early lead that Vegas had rallied around in each of the last three contests. Making the Golden Knights play from behind for the first time in a week set the tone for the entire game. And just on body language alone, it seemed to give the Sharks a noticeable confidence boost.

Good for Goodrow

In the Sharks' second 5-2 win of the series, the winning marker may have got lost in the shuffle.

But it shouldn’t.

Barclay Goodrow notched his first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal, and the redirect was assisted by another guy who isn’t a primary scorer in Justin Braun. Depth scoring was a strong point for San Jose in the regular season, but it had yet to really make its mark in the second season.

[RELATED: Sharks keeps emotions in check, season alive in Game 5]

So, what now?

If the teams had alternated wins and losses to arrive at this juncture, nobody would be surprised. It would have seemed like a back-and-forth slugfest that the Golden Knights slightly held the edge in. But those three decisive Vegas wins really soured the San Jose perspective on the remainder of the series.

Regardless, here we are now with the rare two days off in between games. Where San Jose gets a little healthier, and Vegas has to dwell on their missed opportunity of closing the door in Game 5.

The pressure shifts to Vegas to close out the series in Game 6, otherwise, they'll be forced to come back to The Tank for a do-or-die Game 7 they likely want no part of.

Sharks keep emotions in check, season alive in Game 5 win vs. Vegas

Sharks keep emotions in check, season alive in Game 5 win vs. Vegas

SAN JOSE – To say this first-round series between the Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights has been emotional is a bit of an understatement.

The fervor brought on by the Stanley Cup playoffs was at an all-time high for the Sharks in a blowout loss in Game 4 on Tuesday, as an inability to score on Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made their frustration boil over. That, in turn, led to the Sharks lacking defensive discipline and parading to the penalty box. 

But in their season-extending 5-2 win over the Golden Knights in Game 5 on Thursday, the Sharks were on their best behavior. Vegas tried and tried to claw back into the game, and get a rise out of San Jose in the process. In the end, the Sharks didn’t give the Knights that satisfaction.

“A game like this where you lose and you go home for the summer – we understood the importance of it,” Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon said after the win. “We've got to put our emotions to the side, and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”

The Sharks had just four penalty minutes Thursday, compared to 38 in Game 4. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer criticized his team's emotional outburst in that one, and said Thursday he was much happier with how the Sharks handled themselves. 

“I though last game became a little bit of a sideshow,” he said. “We talked about it and I thought we did a better job.”

With the Sharks leading 2-1 in the second period, Vegas tried to get under San Jose’s skin with a little extra pushing and shoving in front of Martin Jones' net. But instead of fully engaging, the Sharks pushed back just enough to not get penalized, and then moved on to score the next goal. Barclay Goodrow redirected Justin Braun's shot past Fleury, giving the Sharks a 3-1 lead with the eventual game-winning goal. 

The Knights eventually showed frustration this time around, particularly netminder Fleury. Tomas Hertl said after Game 1 the Sharks could tell when they got Fleury frazzled, and said after Game 5 he saw that same reaction.

“Every goal he gets a little bit frustrated so we have to keep doing that,” Hertl insisted, admitting he thinks the Sharks can improve on pressuring Fleury. “We have to be a little bit better because he made the last couple huge saves. But we have to keep frustrating him and keep being harder around the net and score a couple more goals.”

While the Sharks found a way to keep those emotions at bay in Game 5, their work isn’t over yet. After forcing a Game 6, the series returns to Sin City where the Knights have the overflowing support from their home crowd. The job of keeping frustration taking over becomes even more critical.

“Fans help them always, so we have to figure it out and be ready for them,” Hertl said.

[RELATED: Hertl pulls a Messier after dominant Game 5]

Hertl himself told the Sharks fans at the Tank in his on-ice interview that Team Teal will be back in the building for a Game 7 on Tuesday. Keeping their emotions in check and staying out of the penalty box will be big keys to making his prophecy a reality.

“There’s no room to mess around,” Goodrow said. “We’ll have to go in with the same mindset that we had tonight and come out with the win and force Game 7 here.”