SAN JOSE -- One of the biggest storylines heading into Game 6 of the Western Conference final was that the Sharks would be short a few of their top players because of injuries. But, like so many other teams that make deep playoff runs, there were far more bumps and bruises than the general public realized.
While a comprehensive list of every player’s injuries hasn’t been made available, it’s clear that some players dealt with simultaneous injuries through San Jose’s 20-game postseason run -- even players who didn’t miss any game action.
“We had guys who were playing that were injured as well," Logan Couture told reporters. "They weren’t hurt -- they were injured, the injuries took their toll.”
By the time the Sharks had reached the Western Conference final, enough players were dealing with injuries that it became hard to pick up the slack.
Joe Pavelski said the health of the team was a stark contrast from the last time San Jose made a deep playoff run.
“You look at 2016 when we went to the Final, you don’t realize how fortunate we were and how healthy we were at that state, probably,” the captain said. “You can’t really think of too many guys that had major things going on. This year we kind of got caught in the other route where we had a bunch of injuries and different guys were stepping up. It’s how it goes. I’m definitely happy with the character in this locker room and guys stepping up playing hard, playing through things and finding ways to win games.”
Pavelski all on his own was a walking list of ailments. In addition to taking a puck to the mouth and sustaining a scary head injury in the first round, No. 8 aggravated a knee injury from the regular season during Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues -- and had surgery on his left hand.
Both general manager Doug Wilson and head coach Peter DeBoer likened Pavelski and all of his injuries to a car accident victim.
Another player to battle multiple injuries was Tomas Hertl. Sharks fans are well aware Hertl didn’t play in Game 6 of the conference final due to injury, which he confirmed was a head injury sustained when he was hit by Ivan Barbashev in Game 5. What viewers probably didn’t know is that Hertl also broke his finger before the first-round series with Vegas even got underway and had been playing through it.
“I just got it fixed yesterday,” Hertl said on Thursday, speaking to the press with multiple bandages around his left pinkie finger. He then joked: “I think it was actually working. Probably (had) my best faceoffs of my career in the playoffs. So maybe I have to do it more often.”
Of course, not every player was able to play through their injuries. Erik Karlsson ended up missing the third period of Game 5 and all of Game 6 against the Blues because he aggravated his lower-body injury from the regular season. At this point, Karlsson is hoping he doesn’t need to have off-season surgery.
“We’re still in that process,” Karlsson said. “All I know is it’s not going to be anything that will be a problem moving forward. I’m going to be able to have a normal summer with training and everything and getting ready. That’s great. It’s just unfortunate it happened when it did.”
Doug Wilson said that, as of Thursday, no Sharks players were scheduled to have off-season surgery. Nevertheless, there are still multiple players who will now be going through summer rehab stints to get healthy for next season. Joe Thornton, who sustained a groin injury during the conference final, knows all too well how much of a toll that process can take.
“It’s a grind, that rehab process,” Thornton said. “Some guys are going to have to go through it this summer and it’s a grind. It’s mentally tough to do that every single day and not sure what the outcome is going to be.”
Hopefully, for the injured Sharks, the outcomes are positive.