Sharks

Sharks' response to adversity will be critical in Game 6 vs. Vegas

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Sharks' response to adversity will be critical in Game 6 vs. Vegas

The Sharks have a tough task ahead of trying to fend off elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs in Game 6 of their first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer told reporters in Las Vegas before the game that his team isn't the only one to face adversity trailing 3-2 in a best-of-seven series.

But how the Sharks respond to that adversity -- whether it be mounting injuries or breakdowns against a hot Vegas offense -- that could be the difference in forcing a Game 7 or not.

"I think that's going on in every dressing room with every team playing right now," he said when asked if San Jose's injury woes through the first five contests give them any more of an edge. "I don't think we're at an advantage because we have more of it."

There also is, of course, the matter of the Sharks playing this potentially decisive game at T-Mobile Arena, which already has a reputation as one of the NHL's toughest barns in its second season. The Sharks have certainly had their fair share of trouble there, particularly in the Games 3 and 4 of this series. But as DeBoer reminded the press, the Sharks haven't always been down on their luck in Sin City.

"We've won in here before," DeBoer said. "We won in here in the playoffs last year, we won in here in the regular season this year." 

San Jose's bench boss added that his team's home isn't exactly easy for opponents to play in, either.

"I think it's the same as them coming into our building," he said. "You've got to deal with the momentum swings and the crowd getting into it, and the push we're going to see right off the bat." 

[RELATED: Burns named Norris Trophy finalist]

Scoring the first goal Sunday will be critical for both teams. The Sharks have won both games in which they scored first, but have all lost all three when the Golden Knights did -- as early as 16 seconds into the game. 

"The first goal is obviously important," DeBoer said. "If we don't get it, then how we respond to that is going to be critical."

At the end of the night, the Sharks' response to adversity could be the difference between winning or losing against a tough Vegas squad.

"You're down to the best of the best, and you're seeing around the league that anybody can beat anybody," DeBoer said. "You need depth, you need health, you need goaltending. It's a battle of attrition and we have to find a way here."

How Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues forwards bested Sharks in West finals

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How Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues forwards bested Sharks in West finals

Vladimir Tarasenko heated up at just the wrong time for the Sharks. 

The St. Louis Blues winger picked up eight points (three goals, five assists) in their six-game Western Conference final win over San Jose, including the game-winning power-play goal in a 5-1 win in Tuesday's Game 6 at Enterprise Center. Tarasenko led all players in the best-of-seven series with his scoring output, but the Sharks' problems did not stop with the 27-year-old in the conference final. 

"I think what made the St. Louis Blues successful wasn't just Vladimir Tarasenko, it was the production of every line," NBC Sports California guest analyst Kendall Coyne Schofield said after Game 6 on Tuesday. " ... I think a forward on every line had a point tonight. So, every line produced and that's not easy to do. It's going to take a complete team to get to the Stanley Cup Final, and I think that's what St. Louis did during this series."

Two of St. Louis' five goals Tuesday were scored in 5-on-5 situations, but the Blues got contributions from up and down their lineup. David Perron opened the scoring 92 seconds into the contest, while Tarasenko doubled the St. Louis lead just shy of 15 minutes later. Brayden Schenn, Tarasenko's linemate, answered Dylan Gambrell's first career NHL goal with another power-play tally. Tyler Bozak, normally the team's third-line center, was credited with the Blues' fourth goal after his pass deflected off of a defending Gustav Nyquist's stick. St. Louis' fourth line, after being a thorn in San Jose's side all series, left no doubt with an empty-netter with 2:15 remaining in regulation. 

Twelve forwards suited up for the Blues in the Western Conference final, and all but one ended the series with multiple points. The Sharks, by contrast, only had six forwards record at least two points. Four more scored one, and four didn't score at all. 

It didn't help the Sharks on Tuesday that they were without one of those multi-point forwards (Joe Pavelski), as well as one who was red-hot entering the conference final yet still looking for his second point against the Blues (Tomas Hertl). Despite that, San Jose created more high-danger chances at full strength in regulation (11) than in any other game this series, although six came as the Sharks attempted to climb out of a two-goal hole in the third period. 

That didn't translate into goals, Coyne Schofield said, because of what the Blues' defensemen did. 

"I thought they did a really good job boxing out, not allowing second opportunities, allowing Jordan Binnington to see the pucks and ultimately slow down the San Jose offense," she said. "A San Jose offense that was injured, that wasn't complete and [was] trying to string together lines and string together offense in any way they can when, on the other isde of things, the Blues were clicking on all cylinders."

[RELATED: Sharks expecting offseason of change after falling short]

The Blues clicked up front for much of the series. Only two St. Louis forwards (Perron and Ryan O'Reilly) were on the ice for more expected goals-against than for in 5-on-5 situations, according to Natural Stat Trick, and only one (Robert Thomas) was on the ice for more goals-against than for. 

In large part because of that edge up front, the Blues will play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Memorial Day and the Sharks will pack up for the summer beforehand. 

NHL rumors: Sharks' Erik Karlsson expected to be pursued by Rangers

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NHL rumors: Sharks' Erik Karlsson expected to be pursued by Rangers

Erik Karlsson was not on the ice for the final game of the San Jose Sharks' season.

As a pending unrestricted free agent, there's a decent chance he won't participate in their next game, either.

As soon as the Sharks were eliminated from the playoffs in Game 6 of the Western Conference final Tuesday night, their offseason began. And what an important offseason it will be.

San Jose has numerous players destined to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, including Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, but arguably none bigger than Karlsson, whom the Sharks acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators just prior to the start of the season.

As one of the very best defensemen in the NHL, Karlsson will have no shortage of suitors around the league. The Sharks will certainly be considered among the favorites to retain his services and sign him to a long-term contract, but they won't be alone.

In fact, ESPN reported on Tuesday that the New York Rangers could be a major factor.

"Scuttlebutt around the organization is that (Karlsson) likes the Sharks and the Bay Area," ESPN's Greg Wyshynski and Chris Peters wrote following San Jose's Game 6 loss, "yet there has always been speculation that he could return back east -- the loudest chatter during the playoffs was a potential match with old friend Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. Needless to say, the 28-year-old remains the elite of the elite when he's healthy, and would be a foundational asset for the Sharks. But after the playoffs, his health can't be trusted or assumed."

As evidenced in the end, Karlsson's health was an issue all throughout the season.

"Really, we had him healthy for six weeks and dialed in," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters following the defeat.

Still, those six weeks were awfully impressive, and even at less than 100 percent, Karlsson was arguably the Sharks' best player when he was on the ice in the playoffs, at least before aggravating whatever kept him out of Game 6. There's no denying his ability, and even with the injury history, he's the kind of talent any team would love to have on their roster.

[RELATED: Sharks expecting offseason of change after falling short]

The playoff run can't make the Sharks more confident in Karlsson's ability to stay healthy. But it proved enough that they can't afford to let him get away, regardless of how costly he is certain to be.