Erik Karlsson's hot streak keeps pushing Sharks in right direction

Erik Karlsson's hot streak keeps pushing Sharks in right direction

SAN JOSE – Patience isn’t something sports fans are known for, especially when it comes to wanting to see a star player go on a scoring streak. Such was the case for many Sharks fans when Erik Karlsson got to San Jose at the start of the 2018-19 season and he didn’t light the lamp in his very first game sporting a teal sweater.

But anyone who was willing to wait is being rewarded at the halfway point of the season. Karlsson has found his groove, and has cemented his place as a difference-maker on this Sharks roster during his December tear.

He’s not just achieving individual success – he’s developed into a catalyst for San Jose.

“He’s really established his game in our structure,” captain Joe Pavelski said Tuesday after the Sharks’ 7-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers, their fourth win in a row since the start of 2019. “Everybody feels pretty comfortable playing with him because he makes those plays and he makes that outlet pass and he’s got that speed to come out of our end with it. He’s been a big piece to our success lately.”

Karlsson’s body of work thus far speaks for itself. He has scored 25 points over a 14-game span, becoming just the fifth defenseman in NHL history to record at least one assist in 14 consecutive appearances. In Tuesday’s win over the Oilers, he gathered three of those points. 

Right before everyone’s eyes, Karlsson is moving into special territory not many players do. Nobody knows that better than his teammates, particularly his partner on the blue line.

“I’ve been a lucky guy to get to play with him,” said defenseman Brenden Dillon, who has visibly developed great on-ice chemistry with the two-time Norris Trophy winner. “I think just from off the ice, just getting to know each other more and more, and I think it’s translating onto the ice from practices to games. Just something where we feel like we’re getting better and better together every night.”

It isn’t just the night in, night out contributions Karlsson is making on the ice, either.

“What a lot of people don’t see is how vocal he is on the bench and in the locker room, too,” Sharks assistant coach Steve Spott said. “You can tell why he’s been a captain in Ottawa and brought that leadership here. You can see his game now going to the next level, both offensively and defensively.”

Of course, Karlsson’s game going to that next level surely has Sharks fans even more curious how long he’s going to be with the team – especially talks of a contract extension could reportedly take place after the All-Star break. But until any of that actually comes to, it’s no doubt a blast to watch how well he’s playing. 

Especially if it enables the Sharks win more games.

“The way he’s playing, it’s helping us win,” Dillon said. “It’s helping everybody.”

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE - The funny thing about a winning streak is that, at the end of the day, the only thing that gets remembered is the win. But when a team loses, the performance tends to get picked apart.

But as the Sharks pointed out after the Edmonton Oilers snapped the team's six-game winning streak, San Jose consistently has had things to work on. Tuesday's loss showed they can't take advantage of a streak -- there's still a lot of work to do.

"I think it's a wakeup call for us right now," captain Logan Couture said. "You win six in a row and winning kind of masks when you're not playing your best if you find a way to win. I think the last couple of games that's the way the games have gone. We haven't played our game and we found a way to win, but tonight we got what we deserved."

This isn't to say that the Sharks didn't deserve to win any of the games during their last streak. Heck, their 2-1 shootout win over the Nashville Predators two weekends ago was easily the team's best game of the season. But through some of the other games during that stretch, a particular player or play is what kept them in the fight even when the opposition tried to make a comeback. 

After going into a 2-0 hole against the Oilers on Tuesday, those different ways to win weren't coming into play.

"In the last couple of games here that we were winning, we were finding ways to win all over the map," Brenden Dillon discussed. "Sometimes, we thought we deserved to win. Other nights we found a way whether we were good on special teams or we got some big saves from Jones, whatever it might have been."

It didn't help that the Oilers came for revenge after the Sharks defeated them 6-3 exactly one week before. Not only did Edmonton get scoring from throughout their forward lines, but Mikko Koskinen was on his A-game between the pipes.

"We knew after we beat them last week they were going to come hard today," Dillon said. "We were expecting a push from them. But it just seemed like they elevated their game and we kind of stayed the same.."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed. "I thought they came out heavier and harder than last time," he said of Edmonton. "So they obviously wanted to fix what went wrong last time for them. I thought they were much more engaged all night."

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' streak-snapping loss to Oilers]

Perhaps the Sharks should take a page out of the Oilers' book and rebound from a loss in their upcoming contest. The loss to Edmonton comes as San Jose gears up to face the Golden Knights for the first time since the Vegas squad put them in a 0-2-0 hole to start the season. 

If there is a time for the Sharks to rebound from a loss and get back to finding those different ways of winning, that time is now.

"We'd better play a lot better than we did tonight," Couture said, looking to the next game. "Or it could get ugly."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers


SAN JOSE -- All good things must come to an end, as the Sharks learned firsthand when their six-game winning streak ended Tuesday night.

San Jose bested the Edmonton Oilers a week ago, but the Sharks were clearly outmatched in the second meeting between the two teams. Connor McDavid and the Oilers took an early lead and never looked back, winning 5-2 and ending Team Teal's streak.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game.

Struggling to play from behind

To be honest, the Sharks have done a better job lately playing without the lead. They rallied from two deficits in a 5-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last week, and it looked as though they might do something similar Tuesday when Kevin Labanc's first-period goal cut the Oilers' lead to 2-1.

But after that, the Sharks had trouble adding to their tally.

Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen deserves some credit here. The Sharks continued to dominate the shot clock and keep him working, but the Edmonton netminder was in fine form as he froze 33 San Jose shots.

Where did the special teams go?

The Sharks' special-teams play was one of the few things they had going for them through the first month of the season. Heck, even when the power play went a little cold, the Sharks' penalty kill never stopped dominating.

Tuesday was a different story, though, as the Sharks failed to convert on the man-advantage and then gave up a power-play goal to the Oilers in the second stanza.

While the kill undoubtedly will recover after only giving up its second power-play goal on home ice this season, the Sharks' power play needs to get its mojo back. Some power-play success could have even helped the Sharks come back Tuesday night.

[RELATED: Sharks winger Kane pushes hockey at Oakland middle school]

Fourth line's inconsistency

The Sharks have had a problem finding good chemistry on their fourth line for a while now. There was a period where it looked like Dylan Gambrell had settled into his role at center and that maybe they could start generating some offense as a line, but they have yet to make anything happen lately. In fact, the shuffle of skaters has only continued continues.

Although coach Peter DeBoer said a few weeks back that he would like to not have to rotate players in and out of the lineup constantly, his fourth line still hasn't truly established itself or had any big impact on a game. The Sharks can’t expect to make any significant climb up the Pacific Division standings with a fourth line that can’t produce.