Sharks

NHL playoffs: How Sharks can, can't beat Vegas in Game 7, advance

NHL playoffs: How Sharks can, can't beat Vegas in Game 7, advance

The Sharks improbably kept their season alive Sunday with a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 6, forcing a decisive Game 7 in their Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. 

San Jose trailed three to one after four games and looked dead in the water but now has won the last two. Martin Jones kept the Game 7 door ajar with a franchise-record 58 saves through four periods and change Sunday. With the Sharks facing a penalty kill in the second overtime, Tomas Hertl did his best Mark Messier impression to bust it wide open.

Now, the Sharks have their first-ever chance to eliminate the Golden Knights on Tuesday at SAP Center. So, here’s how San Jose can advance to the second round -- and how the 2018-19 season could end on home ice.

The Sharks can win if …

Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen and Joe Thornton get on the scoresheet

Since Thornton returned from his one-game suspension in Game 6, the Sharks’ third line arguably has been their best. Although the trio has been out-shot against the Golden Knights in the last two games, they have generated more quality chances than their opposition.

Per Natural Stat Trick, San Jose controlled 59.95 percent of the expected goals and 66.67 percent of the high-danger chances with that line on the ice in Games 5 and 6. That hasn’t turned into a goal yet, but could lead to a critical one in Game 7 if they keep it up.

Just two of the Golden Knights’ bottom-six forwards (Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin) have scored a goal in this series, and 17 of 21 have come from players on Vegas’ first and second lines. Thornton, Labanc and Barclay Goodrow are the Sharks’ only bottom-six forwards to score so far, and San Jose could use a goal (or two) from someone in that group to create separation in Game 7.

Both teams have relied on their stars offensively so far, and depth contributions ultimately could push one of them through to the second round. If the Sharks’ third line continues to develop quality chances, they just might be the ones to do it.

[RELATED: Hertl's game-winner highlights breakout season]

The Sharks can’t win if …

Martin Jones relents under the Golden Knights’ pressure

Jones was at his best Sunday when the team in front of him was not. Through just over 82-and-a-half minutes of 5-on-5 play, the Sharks ceded the vast majority of puck possession.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Golden Knights:

  • Out-attempted the Sharks, 111-63
  • Out-shot the Sharks, 56-26
  • Out-chanced the Sharks, 33-29
  • Won the high-danger chance battle, 16-11

Sunday was an extreme example of the disparities that Jones has faced during this series as a whole, with the Golden Knights edging the Sharks in every major 5-on-5 puck-possession category through six games. He stood tall in the face of said pressure in each of the last two, allowing only one full-strength goal as San Jose tried to protect narrow leads at various stages in both games.

That’s a stark turnaround, considering Jones posted an .836 5-on-5 save percentage through the series' first four games. Jones has faced a lower rate of high-danger shots and expected goals in the last two games than he did prior, but he still has seen more rubber at full strength than Marc-Andre Fleury has in the opposite crease.

The Sharks and Golden Knights have each averaged two-and-a-half power play opportunities in the last two games, compared to five and five-and-a-half, respectively, in the previous four contests. The whistles probably won’t come out much more in a decisive Game 7, and the Golden Knights have been the better 5-on-5 team.

If that continues in Game 7 and Jones falters, the Sharks’ in-series comeback will be for naught.

NHL rumors: Sharks have made Erik Karlsson massive contract offer

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AP

NHL rumors: Sharks have made Erik Karlsson massive contract offer

The Sharks fell short in their Stanley Cup bid this season, and they now have some serious business to take care of this offseason.

It all starts with the team's pursuit in keeping star defenseman Erik Karlsson. 

The Sharks have been working toward a contract extension for Karlsson, and they reportedly now have made an offer. SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that "it is believed they’ve [the Sharks] made him an offer that will challenge, if not surpass, Drew Doughty’s extension from last summer."

The L.A. Kings made Doughty the NHL's highest-paid defenseman last summer when they signed him to an eight-year, $88 million contract.

Not only did Friedman report the Sharks already have offered Karlsson, but he believes the team has a serious chance at bringing him back to San Jose for the long term.

"Conversations have intensified, and I think they’ve got a shot," Friedman wrote.

Karlsson had dinner with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Wednesday night in Santa Clara, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz reported. A Facebook user in a Sharks fan group posted a picture with Karlsson and Wilson from the restaurant, and it later surfaced on the Sharks' fan-run subreddit.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson in a blockbuster trade with the Senators on the eve of training camp. He played 53 games in his first year as a Shark and scored 45 points -- three goals and 42 assists.

Karlsson battled injuries all season long, and he clearly was hobbled in the playoffs before missing the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. He aggravated his injured groin in Game 4, and played just 10:32 in Game 5.

[RELATED: Inconsistent defense faces uncertain future for Sharks]

While Karlsson’s first go in San Jose didn't go as planned, the Sharks clearly want him to stay in the Bay.

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

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USATSI

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

SAN JOSE -- There may not have been a Sharks' player who caught more flak from fans this past season than Martin Jones, as the starting goalie battled with consistency this season. Criticism of San Jose's goaltending continued as Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, didn't fare much better overall throughout the regular season. 

Then came the Sharks' 20-game playoff run, where Jones did a complete 180-degree turn after the Sharks went into a 3-1 hole against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. As if a switch had been flipped, Jones went from being a liability to being a key to getting Team Teal to the Western Conference Final. 

The question now is which version of Martin Jones will be in net for the Sharks next season -- or how San Jose's goaltending contingent, in general, is going to look and match up to the competition in the future.

Sure, wins are what counts at the end of the day and Jones was tied for third in the league with 36 regular season victories in this last campaign. But while his record improved to 36-19-5 over the previous season's 30-22-6, his save percentage dipped from .915 to .896. He also developed a habit of giving up the first goal of the game within the first few minutes of the first period, putting the rest of the team on their heels early into games.  

Nevertheless, it's pretty unlikely Jones is going anywhere. He's entering the second season of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2017, and even before his turnaround performance in the playoffs the team around him never stopped sticking up for him. When Jones struggled, his teammates continued to put their unwavering faith in him and insisted their defensive effort in front of him was to blame. For that faith to continue, however, Jones is going to have to bring some of his strong play from the playoffs into next season.

As for Jones' backup, Dell's future seems a bit more open. Even with two shutouts on the season, No. 30's numbers also took a dip during the 2018-19 campaign and he ended the regular season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. With just one year left on his current contract, San Jose could potentially use Dell as a trade piece.

[RELATED: What Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champs]

Neither of San Jose's Barracuda goalies, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar, saw any NHL time this past season. Although there's a possibility both get a look during camp ahead of next season after both posted better than .900 save percentages. Bibeau also already has two NHL games under his belt from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average. 

The Sharks further added to their goaltending contingent this spring when they signed Zachary Emond to an entry-level contract. Emond, 18, won't be making any appearances at the NHL level this season, although the Sharks have expressed satisfaction with how the sixth-round pick from the 2018 draft is developing. Look for Emond to be a goalie to come up the pipeline for the Sharks, especially if he has another strong season with his junior club.