SAN JOSE – Sure, many players at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs are playing through their fair share of bumps and bruises. For the Sharks, those ailments appear to be piling up – and it creates some big questions for San Jose ahead of their next game.
The Sharks' bench looked pretty thin midway through the third period of their 5-0 loss to the Blues on Sunday with four injured players – Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, and Joonas Donskoi – absent from game action. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t have an immediate update on any of the four after the game, but there’s already concern about San Jose’s health as they are now on the brink of elimination.
The Sharks were already short a major weapon at the start of the third period of Game 5 when Karlsson wasn’t on the bench with his teammates, which was concerning since his health was already in question. Then it became apparent center Hertl was missing from the bench as well – a scary sight after he sustained a high hit from Ivan Barbashev halfway through the first frame that went unpenalized.
“I saw the Hertl hit, I just watched the replay,” Logan Couture said. “Yeah, that’s a tough one. But they had one earlier in Game 3, I believe on [Justin] Braun, and nothing happened. So they can do it again, right?”
DeBoer pointed to the hit on Hertl and the lack of call as a momentum-changer for San Jose, who was trailing 1-0 at that point in the first period, but still very much in the game.
“Arguably a five-minute major on Tommy Hertl, if you get that – that’s a momentum-changing play right there,” the coach said.
Whether the hit was the reason Hertl was missing from the Sharks’ bench in the third period is still unknown. Nevertheless, San Jose was down two skaters before both Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi left the ice after absorbing big hits from the rival Blues.
At that point in the game, the Sharks let their emotions take over and found themselves in a world of penalty trouble.
“When Pav got hit high, we lost our composure there in the third period,” DeBoer said. “Not our finest moment, but I understand where that emotion is coming from.”
Of course, the penalties made the Sharks’ job even harder. Sharks analyst Jamie Baker pointed out that being on extended penalty kills when the bench is already short is extra demanding on a team that’s chasing the game.
“They were short so many players in the third period, that’s taxing the rest of the guys, and then they were taking penalties,” Baker said. “So the fatigue factor almost doubles down.”
Donskoi returned to the bench toward the very end of the game, though the Sharks were already down 5-0 at that point with little chance of bouncing back.
As the focus shifts from one game to the next, the Sharks now have to face some serious questions when it comes to the health of their lineup.
“For Game 6, the health of the players who didn’t play in the third period is going to be topic No. 1,” Baker said. “And if they can’t play, who’s going to go in there and how are they going to go in and win in St. Louis?”
“We’ve just got to regroup,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to go on and win a game.”