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Sharks rival Drew Doughty doesn't think Brent Burns deserves Norris Trophy

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Sharks rival Drew Doughty doesn't think Brent Burns deserves Norris Trophy

We're down to two weeks remaining in the NHL season, and there's still plenty left to be determined.

Only five of what will be a grand total of 16 playoff spots have been clinched, and the races for many of the other 11 are likely to come down to the final days of the season. The same can be said for certain individual award races.

The former of those types of races doesn't really apply to the Sharks. They've already clinched a playoff spot and barring something crazy, they likely will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round.

As for the award races, there's still plenty at stake and how certain players finish their respective individual seasons could prove to be the deciding factor in who goes home with the hardware and who will have to wait at least another year.

Both San Jose's Brent Burns and Calgary's Mark Giordano have been jostling back and forth for pole position in the race for the Norris Trophy -- given to the league's top defenseman -- practically all year long. And it appears they'll finish it that way, as well.

One former Norris Trophy winner -- Los Angeles' Drew Doughty -- was asked his thoughts on the current race ahead of the Kings' game in Calgary on Monday, and let's just say he didn't mince words when it came to evaluating Burns' candidacy.

Burns currently leads the Sharks and all NHL defensemen with 77 points -- one more than he had in 2016-17 when he won his first Norris. Giordano, meanwhile, ranks second among all NHL defensemen with 72 points. Burns has played in two more games than Giordano so far this season, but his 1.03 points per game still rank slightly ahead of Giordano's 0.99.

Giordano's Flames are the odds-on favorite to finish with the most points of any Western Conference team, though, and that could certainly work in his favor in such a close race.

[RELATED: Sharks need better goaltending with playoffs around corner]

Meanwhile, Doughty's Kings are currently dead last in the Western Conference, 10 points behind the next-closest team. Any realistic shot at the playoffs went out the window a long time ago, and Doughty himself is on pace for his fewest points in a season in which he played more than 48 games.

Doughty has a Norris and a couple of Stanley Cups to his resume, so his comments can't be completely disregarded. But that sure sounds like sour grapes from a frustrated veteran towards a longtime division rival, which -- given the history between the Sharks and Kings -- shouldn't really come as a surprise.

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.

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

SAN JOSE – Up until this point in the first round, the Sharks and Golden Knights have squared off every other night. Now, after staving off elimination with a crucial Game 5 victory, Team Teal has a whopping two days to prepare for Game 6 back in Las Vegas.

“We have two days now,” Tomas Hertl said after San Jose’s 5-2 victory. “Have to take a little breath and rest and be ready for that.”

This isn’t to say that San Jose is playing at any more of a grueling pace than other teams in the playoffs. But bumps and bruises are quite common this time of year. Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed two straight playoff games after being hit by a puck during Game 2, Erik Karlsson is still bouncing back from a regular- season injury -- heck, Logan Couture is the second player who has had to make a trip to the dentist after losing teeth during a game.

Between the ailments being common and the current series being incredibly physical, getting an extra 24 hours in between games is a big help, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media on Friday morning following.

“We’ve got to use it to get rest, to get guys healthy,” DeBoer said, before adding: “But also to prepare. I think we’re going to have to find another level in our game obviously to win Game 6 in there. That’s what the two days have to be used for, too.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. The Sharks haven’t faired well in many of their visits to the Knights’ home barn, particularly during the current best-of-seven series. San Jose was outscored 11-3 in Games 3 and 4 at T-Mobile Arena and went 1-for-7 on the power play, which is not good when you’re trying to defeat a team that is stealthy at capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. While their Game 5 performance was a vast improvement – they finally kept that Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line off the scoreboard, for starters – they still need to use the two days prep for Game 6 wisely.

Plus, Vegas gets that time to prepare as well.

“They get the same luxury,” Karlsson pointed out, before adding that San Jose isn’t putting too much thought into what the other team is doing. “I think our biggest focus is on ourselves and what we have to do to be successful.”

[RELATED: Five observations from Game 5 win]

After finding that success on their home ice, the Sharks are even more motivated to put on a good showing in Sin CIty on Easter Sunday, forcing a Game 7 back in San Jose. It's no easy feat, but two days worth of prep can help.

"We know it will be really hard, but we are ready for this challenge," Hertl said on Friday morning. "We want to show them we can beat them there too."