Wednesday night’s overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers mirrored the arc of the Sharks’ season. At the risk of sounding like a beloved corporate cousin, it had everything.
It was a game that, much like this season, required San Jose to overcome increasingly difficult hurdles. The Sharks fell behind early, then again, then again, only to overcome each successive deficit and win the game in overtime.
Mix in a failed challenge, timely goaltending, special teams success, a scene-stealing performance from a member of the team’s young core (Tomas Hertl), and you have a winning recipe featuring recurrent ingredients from the season to-date. Of course, that winning recipe has the added potential of a sour aftertaste, as the Sharks saw yet another top-six forward leave the game with a familiar injury.
This time, it was Joonas Donskoi, who left the game with just under seven minutes remaining in the third period nursing his left shoulder. Donskoi, who suffered two separated shoulders last season, did not return to the game, and head coach Peter DeBoer did not offer an update on his status postgame.
The timing of Donskoi’s injury is far from ideal for San Jose. Not only is the Finnish forward on pace for his highest-scoring NHL season, but the Sharks are far more productive with him on the ice than when he’s not.
When Donskoi’s not on the rink, the Sharks attempt 49.15 percent of the five-on-five shots, compared to 55.15 percent when he is on the rink, according to Natural Stat Trick. That relative difference (6.36 percent) is the league’s 17th-best mark among skaters, and is essentially the gap between the Boston Bruins (third in five-on-five corsi-for percentage) and New York Islanders’ (27th) respective puck possession prowess.
Plus, the Sharks score an additional 0.82 five-on-five goals per 60 minutes when Donskoi’s on the ice this season, which is the best mark on the team behind Evander Kane. In all, San Jose’s just 4-2-2 with Donskoi out of the lineup this season, and 17-11-7 over the last three.
To make matters worse, the Sharks are just three points clear of missing the postseason entirely with 12 games remaining, and Joe Thornton has yet to return to the ice after injuring his right MCL in late January. San Jose’s had enough depth to mitigate Thornton’s injury, especially following the acquisition of Kane, but can it handle another key injury?
They will not need to answer that question if Donskoi doesn’t miss significant time, and the Sharks have overcome most of the hurdles in their way this season. But if he does, or isn’t himself when he comes back, the Sharks undoubtedly will have another one to clear.