Sharks' depth forwards score big goals, play key roles in win vs. Wild

Sharks' depth forwards score big goals, play key roles in win vs. Wild

SAN JOSE -- Since making his NHL debut during the 2014-15 campaign, Barclay Goodrow has been one of the younger guys looking up to Sharks veterans like Joe Thornton. But for the last two games, he’s been on No. 19’s wing.

“We’ve kind of joked about playing together for a while now,” Goodrow said with a chuckle after he skated with the veteran for the second consecutive game, a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. “So it’s nice to get out there with each other, and especially score some goals.”

But it goes beyond both skaters finding the back of the net over the last two games. Along with Marcus Sorensen, the combination has quickly developed a winning chemistry, one that gave the Sharks the depth they needed to beat a very tough Wild team.

It’s what Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wants to see on a nightly basis.

“I thought our depth won us the game tonight,” he said afterward. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks are unfazed by early season line changes]

DeBoer showed he needed more from the bottom six when he scratched center Antti Suomela ahead of Saturday’s overtime win over the Flyers. Suomela returned to the lineup on the fourth line Tuesday and found the back of the net -- a goal that Sorensen set up, no less.

The coach pointed to Suomela, Sorensen and Goodrow as players San Jose needed to contribute.

Skating on the third line Tuesday, both Sorensen and Goodrow got on the scoresheet, while Thornton looked the strongest he has all season. DeBoer singled out the trio’s performance as an example of how important contributions down the lineup are for the Sharks -- especially with some of the team’s big players battling injuries.

“You get goals from Sorensen and Goodrow -- it was big for us tonight, with [Tomas] Hertl out of the lineup,” DeBoer continued. “I think [Minnesota’s big] line and our big line going at each other, it was going to come down to some depth scoring. I thought our depth guys were great.”

Getting goals from the third and fourth lines also helps take pressure off the top-six forwards -- particularly the Logan Couture-led combo that has been responsible for the bulk of San Jose’s big goals as of late. 

Having bottom-six forwards like Sorensen -- who notched three points on the evening after tallying three in his previous 14 games -- speaks volumes. It’s something the forwards know they have to bring to the table every night.

“We need [to roll] all four lines every night,” Sorensen said. “I think every line has to play good every night.”

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Sharks legend Patrick Marleau might have had his last decent chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL restart. Hopefully he gets another opportunity, because it ain't happening this year.

The fifth-seeded Penguins were stunned and upset by the 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round after the Habs advanced to the playoffs with a 3-1 series victory on Friday. Pittsburgh lost Game 1 and was never able to recover, thanks in large part to Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Penguins scored just eight goals in the series, none of which were deposited by Marleau. In fact, the long-time Shark didn't record a single point across the four games. The Penguins acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for what is now confirmed to be a 2021 third-round draft pick, as San Jose wanted to give him an opportunity to check that last box on his career résumé.

Marleau now will become an unrestricted free agent. It has been widely presumed that if he indeed returns for a 23rd NHL season, it might come in a third go-around with the Sharks. San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference this season, but the Sharks' record was largely impacted by injuries and they certainly could return to the playoffs next year.

Really, it would only be fitting if Marleau ended his career in teal.

As for the Sharks, the qualifying round has gone nearly as well as they could have hoped for. Of the four Pacific Division teams that were involved, only the Edmonton Oilers failed to advance, though the Vancouver Canucks still need one more victory over the Minnesota Wild to do so.

Due to the wacky 2020 NHL draft lottery, each team eliminated in the qualifying round has a 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick. Whichever team lands it is widely expected to use it on consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

So, if the Canucks advance, there's an 87.5 percent chance -- barring trades -- that Lafreniere won't immediately end up in the Sharks' division.

Given the season they had, they'll take any win they can get.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

It's not clear when the Sharks will play next.

One star took a big step towards rejoining them when they do.

Tomas Hertl posted a video Wednesday on his Instagram of him skating in his native Czech Republic, writing that he was "[f]inally back" on the ice.

View this post on Instagram

Finally back 🏒 @filipchlapik @hertlik89

A post shared by Tomas Hertl (@hertlik48) on

Hertl, 26, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in January and missed the final 18 games of the Sharks' season before it was suspended -- and, ultimately, ended -- due to the coronavirus pandemic. The center injured his knee on Jan. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks, just four days after playing in his first All-Star Game. 

The 2012 first-round pick was one of the lone bright spots in the Sharks' otherwise dreary season, scoring 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. San Jose generated 56.76 percent of the expected goals and 54.38 percent of the high-danger chances with Hertl on the ice at full strength, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Hertl himself accounted for his highest rate of 5-on-5 expected goals (0.95 per hour) of any season other than his rookie year.

Hertl said in May that he expected to be ready to start the 2020-21 season, no matter when that is.

"I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away," Hertl said at the time. "My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”

[RELATED: Thornton reportedly could play in Switzerland before NHL season]

Hertl's return to the ice marks an offseason milestone for the forward, who's signed through 2022.

He and his wife, Aneta, announced last month that they're expecting a baby in November.