Sharks lost Game 3 to Vegas for a simple reason: 'We didn't do enough'

Sharks lost Game 3 to Vegas for a simple reason: 'We didn't do enough'

Occasionally in the face of defeat, a team might try to take some positives out of its performance. But positives were hard for the Sharks to find Sunday night in their 6-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

A few different things can be blamed for the Sharks falling behind two games to one in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series. Overall, San Jose just didn't play a good enough game, from matching up against Vegas' stealthy Mark Stone-led line to playing on its heels from 16 seconds into the game.

"We didn't do enough to win tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer deadpanned when he addressed the media after the Game 3 loss.

Tough starts have plagued San Jose against Vegas, and Sunday's game showcased the worst of that bad habit.

Vegas scored goals at the 16-second mark in the first period, the 21-second mark of the second and the 36-second mark of the third, making them just the second team in NHL history with markers in the first minute of all three periods in a playoff game. With those three goals, the Knights now have scored five of their 11 in the series within the first five minutes of periods.

Darin Stephens, NBC Sports Bay Area's truck statistician, pointed out that Stone's first-period goal was the quickest the Sharks have allowed in their playoff history. Per the NHL Public Relations Twitter account, the Knights now are the 13th team in NHL history and the third in the last 30 years to score in the opening minute of consecutive playoff games.

"It wasn't just the first, it was each period here tonight," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "We need better play out of all of us. Bottom line."

Stone, who recorded his first career NHL hat trick in Game 3, easily has been Vegas' best player through the first three games of this first-round series. His line with Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty has been positively lethal, and it scored all six of the Knights' goals Sunday.

The line was first matched up against San Jose's Logan Couture-led top unit, then against other combos throughout the evening. Couture criticized his own line for allowing the Stone line to find second and third opportunities. When DeBoer was asked about it, the coach admitted he still hadn't found a key to shutting down that line.

"They've eaten us up here this series -- we haven't had an answer for them," DeBoer candidly said during his post-game press conference. "What do they do well? Well, you've got three really good players who are playing at a really high level right now. That's part of the issue. We've got to find a way to slow those guys down."

As for finding a line that could match Stone and Co.'s intensity, DeBoer admitted the whole team needs to step up in that regard.

"I don't think we had enough participants playing at a high enough level," he said, before adding: "One thing about our group is that they don't quit. So, that's something we can hang our hat on. But we didn't do enough to win tonight. We weren't good enough across the board to win tonight."

[RELATED: Kane, Reaves finally drop the gloves in Game 3]

The Sharks face the prospect of being booted from the playoffs by Vegas for a second year in a row. Granted, the series is just three games old, and Team Teal will have an opportunity to even things up in Game 4 on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

They'll need a much better performance across the board, however, if that's going to happen.

Sharks top prospect Ryan Merkley modeling his game after Erik Karlsson

Sharks top prospect Ryan Merkley modeling his game after Erik Karlsson

When it comes to the Sharks' top prospects, 19-year-old defenseman Ryan Merkley is in a tier unto himself.

San Jose selected Merkley with the No. 21 overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft after he slipped due to character concerns. His talent, however, has never been in question and was too good to pass up.

Merkley impressed during his participation in the Sharks' rookie camp last September, and just completed what is likely to be his final season in junior hockey with the OHL's London Knights. With 15 goals and 76 points, he was the OHL's second-highest scoring defenseman, and his 61 assists ranked fourth-most in the entire league. London's season was brought to a premature conclusion due to the coronavirus pandemic, at which time the Knights sat in first place in their conference with a 45-15-2 record. San Jose's top prospect played a key role in their success.

"Ryan had a very good year," Sharks scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. said last week on a conference call (H/T The Athletic's Kevin Kurz). "In his career, every single season he scored more goals, he had more assists, he had more points and his plus-minus got better all four years in the OHL. I’m very excited about Ryan."

Always an offensive standout, Merkley is a great skater with advanced vision and tremendous passing ability. Though he has added more than 10 pounds in weight since the rookie camp, he's never going to be an imposing physical specimen, and his defense definitely is the area where he'll need to improve most. The Sharks, however, have someone specific in mind for him to learn from and model his game after.

"The biggest thing with [Merkley] was he’s never going to hit guys like Brent Burns or Radim Simek, he’s going to play defense more like Erik Karlsson," Wilson Jr. added. "If we can get him to use his stick to angle guys off in the neutral zone and then get the puck going north faster, that’s how he’s going to play defense. I think that’s what you saw this year with him."

Karlsson has long been regarded as one of the top defensemen in the NHL, and deservedly so. He signed an eight-year contract extension prior to the currently-paused season, so he should be around for quite a while. Merkley has a long way to go to get on Karlsson's level, but he already has been studying the former Norris Trophy winner for some time now.

"Yeah. He’s not the biggest of bodies, but he’s a great skater and closes up the gap well, makes that great first pass," Merkley told Kurz about Karlsson. "I do think there are some similarities and things I can look up to. Obviously, he’s one of the best in the world. So [Wilson Jr.] and [the Sharks staff] were big on me watching him and watching the way he defends. It’s just (about) growing, getting better and getting more reps."

In addition to Karlsson, Merkley has another Sharks' defenseman to learn from in Mario Ferraro. They roomed together during the rookie camp, and Merkley made sure to follow Ferraro's extremely successful rookie season.

"For sure, it was awesome for him. I was excited for Mario," Merkley said. "He got a good chunk of NHL games. He’s a workhorse. I’ve never seen anybody (take care of) the body and (do) what he does off the ice. It’s incredible. He never stops moving out there, his work ethic is incredible. He’ll play a long time in the league because there’s not many that take care of their body like that or work as hard as he does. It’s awesome, something I can look up to and follow."

[RELATED: What NHL's potential 24-team return could mean for Sharks]

Ferraro projects as a future top-pair defenseman and it wouldn't be surprising if he eventually was involved in the captaincy. The Sharks are hoping Merkley turns out just as well.

And, if they end up with another Karlsson ... that's the dream.

NHLPA OKs further talks with NHL on 24-team return; Sharks' season could end


NHLPA OKs further talks with NHL on 24-team return; Sharks' season could end

The NHL and the players' association took a big step toward returning to the ice, but it could mean the Sharks' 2019-20 season is over.

The NHLPA announced Friday night that it has "authorized further negotiations with the NHL" on a 24-team return to play format.

As the players' association noted, the sides still have more details to work out before the league officially can resume the season that was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While no specifics were provided on the teams that would be allowed to resume playing, the Sharks are not one of the 24 best teams in the NHL standings.

The Sharks possessed the worst record in the Western Conference (29-36-5; 63 points) and the third-worst record in the NHL when the season was suspended.

[RELATED: What went wrong for Sharks]

If this is how the Sharks' season concludes, it will put an end to a campaign in which the team entered with high expectations.

Last season, the Sharks made it to the Western Conference finals before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

The Sharks again were expected to contend for the Stanley Cup this season, but the departure of several veterans, combined with poor play early in the campaign, led to the firing of coach Peter DeBoer after 33 games. Bob Boughner took over as interim coach, but San Jose skated to just a 14-20-3 record under him.