Five takeaways from Sharks tying up Round 2 at two games apiece with Golden Knights

Five takeaways from Sharks tying up Round 2 at two games apiece with Golden Knights

This series started as a best-of-seven.

The Sharks turned it into a best-of-five.  

And now, it’s a best-of-three, where the Golden Knights retain home ice advantage.

It’s not to say we haven’t learned anything from the first four tilts. In fact, we’ve got a pretty good taste and feel for this matchup. It’s just that we haven’t gained anything as it relates to who ultimately advances - and who is eventually done.

Pete DeBoer’s comment that stuck with me leaving SAP Center on Wednesday night was: “We’re getting better with every game.”  

I couldn’t agree more.

Results aside, the Sharks have rebounded nicely from an eight-day layoff and consequently that stinker in Game 1. 

From my vantage point they looked as good in Game 4, as they did at any point of Round 1 in a sweep.

1: For the sake of this series, 4-0 is the same as 7-0

I realize the numerical difference between four and seven, but each are considered lopsided shutouts. And now each team has one of those decisive wins under their belt. Crazy as this sounded back then, let’s rewind and go back to Game 1. If you’re the Sharks and had to choose one game to endure a blowout, wouldn’t it be the series opener? Plenty of time to adjust, recalibrate, and compensate. Because think about what the Golden Knights are facing now, more than halfway through the series - a Sharks group that’s getting better and going to force Vegas to make significant adjustments, without much time left - if they can’t get it right. 

2: Marcus Sorensen, the playoff performer

Part of that eight-day layoff between playoff games also took Marcus Sorensen off the radar, which was unfortunate because he was on a three-game goal streak to end the sweep of Anaheim. As the smallest player in height and weight on the team, it’s been special to watch him tally four goals in his eight games this postseason. DeBoer raved about Sorensen, and his fourth line after Game 4, saying: “We wouldn’t be here without them.” Especially impressive was the power move Marcus made to get San Jose on the board in Wednesday’s first period…. he was the “one-man-cycle”, not stopping until he beat Fleury on the forehand while falling to the ice.

3: The goalie attention 

It’s not to take anything away from Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s already won three more Stanley Cups than most will even sniff in their careers. He also had an impeccable start to this postseason, pitching three shutouts in the first five consecutive wins. But as Tomas Hertl reminded us about Fleury: “He’s not Superman.” The Sharks are continuing to chip away at the opponent goaltender. Simultaneously, Martin Jones is very much the lesser-discussed netminder of this matchup, but is proving his playoff prowess pound-for-pound. This series (especially) with all the close games, is heavily reliant on those critical saves that only the great goalies are capable of. It’s like watching two great quarterbacks or starting pitchers duel over and over.  

4: Vegas wasn’t sending a message at the end, they were frustrated

If William Carrier and company were trying to plant some seeds against the Sharks, or just draw some blood, why did they wait until the final minutes of regulation: In a game they were losing 4-0?  What you saw at the very end on Wednesday night was frustration by Las Vegas. And that’s a great sign for San Jose. It took four games, and it might be resolved by Friday night - but for now - you unhinged the Golden Knights. Their only prior playoff adversity was a double-overtime loss in Game 2, so this one has to breed a little bit of doubt for the team headed back home to Southern Nevada.

5: The proximity factor will begin to play in

Once you past Game 4 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series, the travel starts to get busy. A lot of back and forth. Road, home, road, is how it will got for San Jose if this round requires all seven games. Fortunately, the short flights and same time-zone are huge benefits to both clubs. And for whomever advances, easy travel in the first two rounds will pay eventual dividends. Imagine if this were Round 2 for San Jose against St. Louis or Nashville. Thousands of extra travel miles and time changes would be in the works for every additional game of the series. Luckily those are not factors, considering most of our commutes to work are longer than the flight from SJC to LAX.

NHL expansion draft: How Sharks will be impacted by Seattle franchise


NHL expansion draft: How Sharks will be impacted by Seattle franchise

Editor's note: This week, NBC Sports California will look ahead to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, at which time the Seattle franchise officially will join the league as its 32nd team. Every team in the league will be affected, as players from (nearly) every roster will be made available to Seattle for its inaugural roster. We begin with an explanation of the expansion draft rules.

Over the last two years, the Sharks have developed a budding rivalry with the Vegas Golden Knights, who joined the NHL as an expansion franchise prior to the 2017-18 season.

Two years from now, another expansion franchise -- this one in Seattle, Washington -- officially will join the league, and like Vegas, will slide right into the Pacific Division, with the Arizona Coyotes being displaced to the Central Division.

Before the currently unnamed Seattle franchise begins play in 2021-22, it has to acquire its inaugural roster by way of the expansion draft.

The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will operate under the same rules for Seattle as it did for the Golden Knights back in the summer of 2017. Seattle will select one player from each of the other teams in the league (excluding Vegas) for a grand total of 30. Specifically, those 30 players must include at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.

Eventually, Seattle will whittle down those 30 players to a minimum of 20 under contract for the 2021-22 regular season, and that inaugural roster must have a cumulative salary that is between 60 and 100 percent of the 2020-21 salary cap's upper limit.

However, it's not as if Seattle can just handpick the best player from each roster. The other 30 teams can protect a limited number of their own players, making them ineligible for selection in the expansion draft.

Those teams have two options for protecting players: Either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or protect eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goalie. Regardless of which option a team chooses, there are certain conditions it must abide by.
For instance, any player with a no-movement clause at the time of the expansion draft -- and who declines to waive that clause -- must be protected and will count toward their team's protected list. Additionally, all first- and second-year players, as well as all unsigned draft choices, are exempt from inclusion in the expansion draft, and won't count toward their team's protected list.

There are two sides to the protected/exempt coin, though. The other 30 teams can't simply scrape the bottom of their respective barrels and expose those remnants to the expansion draft. There are conditions that those teams must meet that ensure Seattle will receive legitimate NHL players, much like the Golden Knights did before making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their debut season.

Each of those 30 teams must expose at least one defensemen and at least two forwards who are a) under contract in 2021-22 and b) played in at least 40 NHL games the prior season, or in at least 70 NHL games over the previous two seasons combined.

[RELATED: Sharks will miss Pavelski's leadership more than his goals]

Furthermore, those teams must also expose at least one goalie who is either under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to expose the latter option to the expansion draft, it must have already given that goalie a qualifying offer prior to submitting its protected list.

Lastly, any players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games heading into 2021-22, or who have been otherwise confirmed to have a career-threatening injury, cannot be exposed to the expansion draft unless approved by the league.

Traditionally, expansion franchises have taken a long time to find their footing in the NHL, but the Golden Knights bucked that trend and took the sports world by storm. Considering the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft will have the exact same setup as the one that jumpstarted Vegas in 2017, it stands to reason that Seattle could do the same.

Why Peter DeBoer is confident Sharks can fill Joe Pavelski's scoring void

Why Peter DeBoer is confident Sharks can fill Joe Pavelski's scoring void

Joe Pavelski led the Sharks with 38 goals last season. That's 38 goals that now reside with the Dallas Stars.

It's not as if San Jose lacked for goal scoring this past year, having ranked second in the league with an average of 3.52 goals per game during the regular season. However, no Sharks player found the back of the net more often than Pavelski, meaning that if the Sharks are going to maintain or even surpass that offensive output next season, they're going to have to find those 38 goals elsewhere.

San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer touched on that very subject in a recent interview with's Mike Zeisberger, in which he insisted that Pavelski's character will be tougher to replace than his goal-scoring.

"Look, it's hard to replace Pav's 38 goals," DeBoer conceded. "We scored a lot of goals last year and if we score a little bit less I don't think it will kill us. At least I hope it doesn't. The goals are one thing, but it's the leadership, the presence, the message that he would convey in the dressing room when times were tough. Those are the things that are harder to replace than his goals."

Part of the reason DeBoer is confident his team can adequately fill Pavelski's scoring void is due to the continued progression he's expecting from young players already on the roster.

"We've got to continue to hope that guys like Timo Meier can build on the season he had last year," DeBoer said. "Kevin Labanc too. I think Doug [Wilson] has done a great job of setting us up with young players in the pipeline we feel can create some offense."

Additionally, after Erik Karlsson was banged up throughout much of his debut season with the Sharks, DeBoer is hopeful the former Norris Trophy winner can have an even greater offensive impact moving forward after signing an eight-year contract in the offseason.

"When we had the opportunity to acquire Erik Karlsson last summer there was no hesitation in anyone's opinion to go forward on the possibility of doing that," DeBoer insisted. "Those are generational-type players and they rarely become available, if at all. It was a no-brainer to trade for him and it was a no-brainer to sign him. 

[RELATED: Why DeBoer credits Thornton for Sharks' historic power play]

"He's going to be a huge part of what we're doing going forward," DeBoer continued. "You take out Pavelski but you add Karlsson and some young guys. … The game might change in how we create and how we do things but I think he's going to have a big impact. The two months he was healthy he controlled a lot of the games we played. We just need to get him healthy so he can have a full healthy year to get into rhythm."

The Sharks are going to feel Pavelski's departure in more ways than one. Yes, his 355 goals rank second all-time in franchise history, but he brought so much more to the table than simply the ability to put the biscuit in the basket. However, if Karlsson, Meier, Labanc and others can combine to fill his resulting scoring void, Pavelski's absence won't be nearly as noticeable.