Sharks

Peter DeBoer's patience pays off in Sharks' critical series split with Golden Knights

Peter DeBoer's patience pays off in Sharks' critical series split with Golden Knights

The Sharks were not facing elimination in Game 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday night, but they might as well have been. 

A loss would have created a near-insurmountable 2-0 hole. In NHL history, home teams taking a 2-0 lead have closed out the series 89.5 percent of the time, according to Hockey Reference, and the Sharks are 0-11 in series where they've lost the first two games. 

Logan Couture's double-overtime winner ensured they'd avoid the dreaded deficit, handed the Golden Knights their first postseason loss, and taught Vegas' wide-eyed fanbase a lesson in playoff heartbreak. For the first 20 minutes and change, it looked like none of that would happen, as San Jose gave up the first two goals for the second straight game. 

But the Sharks whittled away at the lead, took it themselves, gave it back, and eventually took it back thanks in part to head coach Peter DeBoer's patience. 

Brent Burns was not at his best in Game 1, nor did he start strong in Game 2. The defending Norris Trophy winner made a costly turnover in his own zone in the lead-up to Golden Knights winger William Karlsson's first goal on Saturday, and San Jose was outscored, outshot, and out-possessed with the defenseman on the ice in Game 1. 

But Burns cut the Vegas lead in half with a power-play goal in the first period, and gave his team their first lead of the series with a wraparound effort in the second. As he has all season, DeBoer took the good with the bad from Burns and continued to trust him. Burns' 36:48 in time on ice (TOI) on Saturday only trailed Marc-Edouard Vlasic (37:26). 

Kevin Labanc also struggled in Game 1 and parts of Game 2. Labanc's ice time dipped a bit in the first two overtime periods on Saturday, when DeBoer basically shortened the bench to three lines and rotated Labanc and Mikkel Boedker on Couture's wing. 

Yet, DeBoer kept Labanc on the top power play unit both times San Jose had a man advantage in the second overtime. The second-year forward, one of the league's best power play passers this season, assisted on the game-winner with a slip pass across the slot. 

Burns and Labanc rewarded DeBoer's patience, ensuring a series split before the teams renew pleasantries at SAP Center on Monday. The second round is far from over, and much farther than if the Sharks had returned home in a two-game hole. 

NHL free agency: Will Erik Karlsson's health affect Sharks signing him?

NHL free agency: Will Erik Karlsson's health affect Sharks signing him?

SAN JOSE – Ever since arriving in San Jose last September, Erik Karlsson’s tenure as a Shark has been riddled with questions.

Questions as to when he would get on the scoreboard when he started off the season pointless. Questions as to why he was participating in the NHL All-Star Game when he was too hurt to pencil into his team’s roster on a nightly basis. Questions as to whether the Sharks would sign him to a deal that would keep him in teal past the 2019 season – which became even more of a mystery when he tweeted out a message to Sharks fans, thanking them for the season.

The latter question will be answered in good time with San Jose’s postseason run over and free agency on the horizon. Now, come the questions as to how much Karlsson’s injuries from this past season play into what happens to him next.

“I’m still in the process of figuring all that out so I can’t really give you a straight answer,” Karlsson said during exit interviews when asked about his overall health. “It’s nothing major. It’s just going to take some time and figure everything out. It should be something that’s easy to deal with. That’s as much as I know.”

Karlsson missed 29 games over the regular season with a suspected groin injury, which first took him out of the Sharks’ lineup just before the All-Star break. Following his return in the final game of the regular season, the conversation continued into the playoffs regarding how healthy he really was.

While Karlsson appeared more and more healthy as the Sharks advanced through two rounds of the playoffs, he began to show signs he was ailing during the Western Conference final, and eventually missed Game 6.
 
The defenseman didn’t expand on the extent to which he was injured, only saying he was one of many Sharks’ skater who wasn’t playing at 100-percent.

“Everybody is dealing with something,” Karlsson insisted. “You have to play through things.” 

Karlsson also didn’t give any indication as to what kind of rehab process he will have to go through over the offseason, although he insisted his health wouldn't get in his way.

“All I know is it’s not going to be anything that will be a problem moving forward,” he said. “I’m going to be able to have a normal summer with training and everything and getting ready. That’s great.”

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the press he didn’t know yet if any injured players on the team would need surgery in the offseason, including Karlsson. When asked if Karlsson’s health played a factor in whether the team tried to sign him to a long-term deal, Wilson didn’t lean one way or the other.

“I’m still in the reflection mode of this year, just starting to meet with players, meet with coaches,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of guys who have contracts up, and out of respect to them, we don’t discuss that.”

[RELATED: Sharks emerge from playoff run with lengthy injury list]

Karlsson does appear interested, however, in testing out the market.

“I’ve worked hard for 10 years in this league to be in the position that I’m in. I’ve earned that,” he said of being an unrestricted free agent. “I’ll do everything I can to make the best decision for myself and for the team that is going to want me.”

How much his health plays into that decision, still remains to be seen. 

NHL free agency: Erik Karlsson thanks Sharks in possible goodbye tweet

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AP

NHL free agency: Erik Karlsson thanks Sharks in possible goodbye tweet

The Erik Karlsson era could be coming to an end after only one season in San Jose. 

Karlsson becomes a free agent at the end of Stanley Cup Final. The Sharks' star defenseman sent a thank you note to the team's fans and the whole Bay Area on Friday. 

San Jose acquired Karlsson, who turns 29 on May 31, from the Senators for four players and two draft picks on Sept. 13, 2018. The two-time Norris Trophy award winner was named to his fourth straight NHL All-Star Game in his first season as a Shark. 

Karlsson played in 53 regular-season games this year, his lowest since the 2012-13 season. He tallied 45 points -- three goals, 42 assists. 

Injuries, however, played a large role in Karlsson's season. He missed 27 of the Sharks' final 33 regular-season games with various ailments. And he missed the Sharks' season-ending Game 6 loss to the Blues in the Western Conference final.

[RELATED: Karlsson expected to be pursued by Rangers]

Karlsson is expected to be pursued by multiple teams this offseason, including the Sharks. But he could have just said his last goodbye to The Tank and all its fans in San Jose.