Rewind: Sharks road resilience carries into first playoff game


Rewind: Sharks road resilience carries into first playoff game

LOS ANGELES -– On the morning of the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter deflected a question about the Sharks being perhaps a more resilient club than in years past.

“I don’t know, what does that mean? More resilient?” Sutter asked.

He should have a better idea now, and it didn’t even require a dictionary.

Despite giving up the first goal, and allowing a second period shorthanded marker that could have been a backbreaker, the Sharks’ effort and game plan never wavered in a 4-3 triumph on Thursday night at Staples Center. Joe Pavelski’s early third period goal and some key saves by Martin Jones later in the final frame proved to be the difference.

For San Jose, its first playoff game was an extension in some ways of its regular season. The Sharks won on the road after leading the NHL with 28 wins. They didn’t let the first goal on the road get them down after going an impressive 9-8-2 in such situations. And Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners, got the first one of the playoffs.

“I liked our game,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we deserved the win, and we found a way to win.”

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Pavelski, Sharks take Game 1 from Kings in LA]

Prior to Pavelski giving the Sharks the lead for good, Tomas Hertl scored probably the biggest goal of the night for San Jose. Just 30 seconds after Trevor Lewis staked the Kings a 3-2 advantage on a shorthanded two-on-one rush, Hertl located a loose puck in front of the net and slid it over the line with 2:12 to go in the middle frame.

“That was a tough goal to give up,” DeBoer said of Lewis’ score, “and for us to respond immediately like that, I think that was a key moment in the game.”

On the game-winner, the 190-pound Pavelski held off the 224-pound Anze Kopitar behind the net before finding daylight on a wraparound just 17 seconds after the puck dropped.

“I was just able to spin off him there at the last second,” Pavelski said. “It kind of pops up on edge and sticks to my stick there a little bit, and it allows me to swing around a little bit quicker.”

After going 28-10-3 on the road in the regular season, the Sharks were relaxed going into the third period of a tie game in a hostile environment.

“I think we’re a confident team,” DeBoer said. “Obviously we have a lot of respect for L.A. and the building we’re playing in, but there was no panic there. … We fell behind 1-0, and 3-2, and both times came back with big responses. I think we’re comfortable on the road, and I thought we played a real good road game.”

In net, Jones stopped all eight shots he saw while preserving that slim third period lead. In the final minute with Los Angeles pressuring for the tying goal with Jonathan Quick pulled for an extra attacker, he helped the club withstand seven Kings shot attempts in the closing moments.

[WATCH: Highlights: Sharks outplay Kings at Staples, claim Game 1]

Making his first career playoff start, Jones was victimized by Jake Muzzin less than three minutes into the game, coming out of the crease a bit too aggressively before Muzzin banked in a shot off of Hertl’s skate in the crease. In the second, Jeff Carter tied the game at 2-2 on a shot that directed in off of Brent Burns’ stick.

He didn’t get rattled, despite admitting to some pregame jitters.

"You’re lying to yourself if you’re not nervous,” Jones said. “Felt more comfortable as the game went on, and felt like I was getting more settled in.”

The goalie was just as resilient as the skaters in front of him.

“That was the story of the night, I think,” Pavelski said. “Just the strength from our guys to really not change the way we’re playing. … It’s just good to see guys step up at those moments.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

I think we’re all due for some good news. So is Sharks’ All-Star center Tomas Hertl and his wife Aneta.

Aneta announced on her Instagram account the two are expecting a baby in November.

The first photo is the two of them posing together with the sonogram picture. The second is of a baby onesie with “Born in 2020” embroidered on it.

This is fresh off the couple's one-year wedding anniversary which, rumor has it, the big day was quite a fun time.

Back in May, Hertl spoke to the media about his rehab after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee where he vowed he would be better than he was before. But he’ll have to wait.

[RELATED: Ranking Sharks top playoff moments in overtime]

The Sharks will not be participating in the NHL’s a modified 24-team return-to-play format.

That’s OK though, he has something even better to look forward to … a baby Shark. 

NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected

NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected

We don't know when the next NHL season will begin or end, but once it does, a new team officially will join the fold.

The still-unnamed Seattle expansion franchise will become the league's 32nd team, and in the process, the Sharks will lose a player from their roster as part of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Not everyone in San Jose will be up for grabs. The Sharks, along with the other 30 current NHL teams, will be permitted to protect a group of their players from the expansion draft according to one of two options. Either a) protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or b) protect eight skaters and one goalie.

So, where does that leave the Sharks? 

By narrowing down who San Jose is likely to protect, we can zero in on which players are likely to be exposed.

Automatically protected: Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (no-movement clauses)
Certain to be protected: Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier
Very likely to be protected: Evander Kane

That's six pretty-darn-sure things already, plus an unnamed goalie. So, under this assumption, the Sharks would only be able to protect three more forwards and one additional defenseman under Option A, or just two more skaters under Option B.

Though nearly all of San Jose's top prospects will be automatically exempt due to lack of service time, Jonathan Dahlen -- generally regarded as the Sharks' second-best prospect -- will be eligible for inclusion due to his playing AHL games in 2017-18. So, chances are, they'll protect him as well.

Regardless of which option San Jose goes with, that doesn't leave them many more choices. As such, here are some of the more notable names that the Sharks might be forced to make available to Seattle in the expansion draft:

Brent Burns

What the Sharks decide to do with Burns likely will depend on the trajectory of the team heading into the 2021 offseason. If San Jose successfully turns things around in short order, then keeping the 36-year-old Burns -- who has another four years left on his contract at $8 million per season -- will make a lot more sense than if an extended rebuild appears to be on the horizon.

The Sharks have several large salaries on their books, and making Burns available would be one possible way to alleviate some of that building pressure. Of course, if Burns has a Norris-type season next year, San Jose likely will do everything it can to keep him. More than anything, Burns' performance next season likely will have the most determining effect on who the Sharks make available.

[RELATED: Why Sharks shouldn't be counted out if Eichel seeks trade]

Martin Jones

Assuming he's still on the roster and doesn't have a major bounce-back season, Jones would seem to be one of the more likely inclusions on San Jose's unprotected list. He carries a hefty price tag and hasn't lived up to it for the last couple of years.

Of course, the Sharks don't really have anything in the way of an established goalie behind him -- Aaron Dell is an unrestricted free agent -- so if one doesn't emerge, they might be forced to protect him. If San Jose makes Jones available, that likely means one of the Sharks' goaltending prospects made a significant leap or a free agent outperformed him in the year ahead.

Kevin Labanc

He brings plenty of talent to the table and has been useful on the power play. But Labanc's problem is consistency. On some nights, he's one of the best players on the ice. Others, you hardly notice him. He bet on himself last offseason, but it didn't appear to pay off.

A restricted free agent, San Jose should be able to re-sign him at an affordable price. He still is only 24 years old, though. Should Labanc take a couple steps forward next season, it likely will come at a discount, which the Sharks would likely want to protect. If he's ultimately made available, he could offer the combination of youth and talent that would pique Seattle's interest.

Stefan Noesen

Acquired early in the season, Noesen, 27, made a strong impression during his first year in San Jose. He provided the occasional offense, scoring six goals in 34 games, as well as some sorely-needed toughness. He also immediately became a leader in the locker room.

Noesen currently is an unrestricted free agent, but it would be surprising if he didn't start next season in a Sharks sweater, and he shouldn't be too costly either. If he can build off this past season's performance, one would imagine San Jose would prefer to keep him around. Who else the Sharks protect likely will determine if he can be protected or not.

Dylan Gambrell/Antti Suomela/Alex True

Gambrell has accomplished the most of the three, but he's running short on time. A restricted free agent at the end of next season, he'll be eligible for inclusion in the expansion draft if he plays in at least 20 games. Unless he breaks out, Gambrell seems likely to be one of the names the Sharks leave unprotected.

You could say the same thing about Suomela -- assuming the restricted free agent is re-signed -- who has notched four goals and 11 assists over 47 NHL games across the last two seasons. He's still only 26, but has yet to live up to his potential. True, on the other hand, is younger (22 years old) and was fairly noticeable over the course of his NHL debut this season. He should have a good opportunity to begin the season with San Jose, and would seem to be the most likely of the three to carve out a long-term role with the big club.