Sharks

Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling to force decisive Game 7 vs. Vegas

Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling to force decisive Game 7 vs. Vegas

SAN JOSE – Sure, it’s something of a cliché to say a team has to “roll four lines” in order to be successful. But it’s true. When the Sharks have been at their best this season, it’s because their depth has shown through. 

In their crucial Game 5 victory over the Golden Knights on Thursday evening, San Jose’s depth was a key factor yet again, with their fourth line putting on a show. It’s something Team Teal needs if the Sharks are going to play past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially since their current opponent also has a fourth line that can have an impact on the game.

“I thought those guys were good,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of the trio of Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. “They’re getting some effective minutes from their fourth line, whether it’s on the scoresheet or just softening up the next group going out there. We have to do the same thing and I thought those guys did.”

When asked about his line’s performance, Goodrow told the press they accomplished what any fourth line should.

“You just look to create energy,” he said. “We want to spend as much time in the offensive zone as possible. Hold onto pucks, create cycles, make plays.”

Goodrow and Karlsson have been staples on that fourth line since the start of the regular season, while Donskoi only recently joined them after an injury took Micheal Haley out of the lineup. While Donskoi didn’t get on the scoresheet in Game 5, his hard work was rewarded when DeBoer moved him up the lineup in the third frame. 

“I thought Donskoi was on,” DeBoer said. “He had good jump, he had good energy, he was inside.”

Of course, the biggest contribution the fourth line made was in the second stanza when Goodrow found the back of the net. San Jose was holding onto a 2-1 lead when the fourth-line center redirected a Justin Braun shot from up top to give the Sharks a much-needed two-goal cushion.

“That’s a big goal for us by Goodie at that point,” DeBoer said of the goal, which was also Goodrow’s first playoff marker. “We needed that.” 

The goal also countered the attack of Vegas’ fourth line, which thrives off of strong physical play and knocking their opponent around. Goodrow’s line was able to halt that attack by playing a more offense-forward game.

“Whenever you can keep their fourth line out of your end, it kind of limits their physicality,” Goodrow summarized.

[RELATED: Why two-day break before Game 6 is crucial for Sharks]

San Jose will need those fourth-line contributions to continue if they’re going to have success Sunday when the series returns to Las Vegas.

They have yet to hold a lead at T-Mobile Arena, and the fourth line has yet to contribute to the Sharks’ cause in a game played in that building. But if they can put forward the same effort they did in Game 5, the Sharks are going to have a much better chance at bringing the series back to San Jose for Game 7.

NHL free-agency review: How Vegas Golden Knights stack up in Pacific Division

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NHL free-agency review: How Vegas Golden Knights stack up in Pacific Division

Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Vegas Golden Knights.

The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs can't be talked about without Game 7 between the Sharks and the Golden Knights in the Western Conference first round

In addition to being the ultimate edge-of-your-seat viewing experience, it gave the rest of the hockey world a glimpse into the bitter rivalry that has very quickly manifested between these two teams.

Despite being around for only two seasons, the Golden Knights have become a force to be reckoned with. And with most of the Pacific Division teams having down seasons, Vegas has emerged as San Jose's biggest competition on the West Coast.

So while the Sharks have a lot to focus on this offseason in terms of their own roster, it doesn't hurt to take a peek at what the opposition is up to, especially a team with no cap space to work with.

Here's a look at what Vegas has been up to since the free-agent market opened up.

Players who stayed

Vegas has been incredibly busy getting its players signed to deals this offseason, keeping important pieces of its roster together. They made the most noise in late June when they signed high-scoring center William Karlsson to an eight-year deal. The top-line pivot ranked second on the team last year with 56 regular-season points.

Vegas also kept some of their depth from last season, locking up forwards Tomas Nosek and Brandon Pirri, and backup goalie Malcolm Subban. 

The Golden Knights still have a couple of players hanging out as free agents. But given they currently have zero room under the salary cap, according to CapFriendly, there will be moves made before anyone else gets signed.

Players who left

The lack of breathing room under the salary cap has, as expected, signaled the exit of a handful of players Vegas had on its roster last season.

Defenseman Colin Miller was traded to the Buffalo Sabres and forward Erik Haula was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes ahead of free agency. Center Ryan Carpenter signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first couple hours of free agency, and French forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare became one of many players scooped up by the Colorado Avalanche that same day.

Rumors have also been swirling that RFA Nikita Gusev could be headed to another team given Vegas doesn't have any room left under the cap, but there could also be another trade in the works to free up some money.

While the moves leave roles to be filled on Vegas' roster, it allows some of its promising young prospects to step up. The Golden Knights likely aren't done making moves this summer.

Better, worse, or the same?

Even with some pieces being moved around this offseason, the core of the Golden Knights is still intact.

With no cap space to work with, Vegas probably will make more moves this offseason. The Knights still, however, look like they're going to be the Sharks' toughest division rival for another season.

NHL free-agency review: How Edmonton Oilers stack up in Pacific Division

NHL free-agency review: How Edmonton Oilers stack up in Pacific Division

Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Edmonton Oilers.

It was only a couple of postseasons ago when the Oilers booted the Sharks from the Stanley Cup playoffs. But boy, have they spiraled out of control since then.

Despite having one of the best hockey players in the world on their team, the Oilers have developed a reputation for being inconsistent and sometimes looking like they really don't give a darn. The drama got turned up an extra notch this past season with the firing of coach Todd McLellan in November and of general manager Peter Chiarelli in February.

Now Edmonton is set with a new bench boss and GM and is making moves in free agency to improve its roster. But is it enough to completely rebound from a disappointing 2018-19 campaign?

Here's a look at what the Oilers have done since the free-agent market opened. 

Players who signed

New GM Ken Holland has gone to work trying to provide the Oilers with offensive depth in free agency, re-signing forwards Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira and adding Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco, and Gaetan Haas. 

But the most interesting signing thus far has been that of goaltender Mike Smith, previously with the Calgary Flames. Smith is coming off an inconsistent season where he lost out on the starting job to David Rittich, but was good down the stretch -- although the Flames were booted pretty quickly from the playoffs.

This addition could go one of two ways. Smith could have a bounceback season playing for David Tippett -- who has been his coach twice before -- or lose out on the starting job yet again, this time to Mikko Koskinen. 

Whichever goalie wins the job is going to have a challenging time with the lack of quality defense being played in front of them. Speaking of ...

Players who left

Edmonton started clearing room before the market opened by buying out the rest of Andrej Sekera's contract. Even though Sekera's career has been on the decline since he sustained an ACL injury a couple of seasons ago, it leaves a void on the Oilers' blue line.

Not ideal if your team is going up against an offense like the Sharks' multiple times a season.

[RELATED: Sharks re-sign RFAs Gambrell and Suomela to contracts]

It's believed Holland is going to make a big trade at some point this summer ahead of training camp to beef up the blue line. Until that happens, though, Edmonton's defense isn't looking too sturdy.

Better, worse, or the same?

As of right now, the Oilers don't appear to have made any big changes that could completely turn their fortunes around and still have pieces they need to add before next season starts.

They may have a new coach and general manager in place, but they'll need to do more than that if they want to be more competitive next season.