Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 4-3 shootout loss to Coyotes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 4-3 shootout loss to Coyotes

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It ended up being another close game between Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes in the last game before the Christmas break. 

Things looked bleak for San Jose as the last few minutes of regulation wound down at SAP Center, but it was able to ride a two-goal effort by Tomas Hertl into overtime. The road to the holiday break carried all the way into the shootout, with the Desert Dogs ultimately picking up a 4-3 win.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Two words: Tomas. Hertl.

Of the herd of players who pushed the hardest to get the Sharks over the hump, Hertl was at the forefront of that group. He shined alongside Logan Couture and Timo Meier, and then did the same centering Kevin Labanc and Evander Kane after San Jose's forward lines were thrown into a blender. No wonder Hertl has notched five multi-point games over his last eight.

The forward’s mix of speed and physicality on his two-goal third period was a sight to be seen. Hertl muscled his way down the ice to score San Jose’s second goal, and he had perfect presence in front of the net to notch the tying goal. His relentless fight fueled the rest of the team as they sent the contest into overtime. 

Tim Heed stepped up to the plate

Perhaps the biggest question heading into Sunday’s game was how Heed would perform as he filled in for Erik Karlsson, while the two-time Norris Trophy winner served the first game of a two-game suspension. Heed had not played since Nov. 23, but he’s been grinding away at Sharks’ practices during that time.

When he got the call to fill in Sunday, he more than rose to the occasion.

Heed opened the scoring for San Jose by blasting the puck past the league’s top penalty kill. With the Sharks on their first chance of the evening on the man advantage, Joe Thornton patiently fed the puck to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who set up Heed’s slap shot for the power-play goal.

The lead didn't last long, as the Coyotes tied it up 20 seconds later. 

[RELATED: Watch Joe Thornton take 10th place on NHL's assists list]

Maybe the break is coming at a good time?

The Sharks didn’t play terribly, but a lot of the team looked tired -- particularly in the second period. Of course, spending an extended amount of time on the penalty kill in that frame can do that. But given the schedule they’ve maintained heading into the holiday break, it isn’t too surprising. 

Having a designated three-day break could be exactly what this team needs. Between the rigorous road schedule at the start of their campaign and the multiple back-to-backs they’ve played, the Sharks likely will benefit from having a couple days away from the rink before they host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Erik Karlsson is arguably the best player on the Sharks. According to NHL Network, San Jose's defenseman is the 24th-best player in the league.

In counting down the best players in the current NHL, the league's network placed Karlsson in between 25th-ranked David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, and 23rd-rank Mark Giordano, the Flames' reigning Norris Trophy winner.

"We know that he can put the puck just about anywhere, he can skate himself out of trouble, he can pass himself out of trouble, he can do just about anything," NHL Network's Brian Lawton said of Karlsson. "For a defenseman in today's game that played on one leg basically last year … he did have 16 points in 19 playoff games and it wasn't quite enough, but it was pretty darn heroic if you ask me."

Karlsson totaled 45 points in 53 regular-season games with the Sharks after arriving in San Jose at the start of training camp last year. The Sharks had their best stretch of the season once he found his groove in early December, and if not for a troublesome groin injury, there's no telling how far San Jose could have gone.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner still managed to appear in the All-Star Game, and signed a lucrative eight-year extension with San Jose at the start of free agency. He tallied at least 62 points in each of the previous five seasons, and his 563 points since making his NHL debut are the most among all NHL defenseman, ahead of fellow Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (532).

[RELATED: Listen to Jumbo Joe mic'd up at a recent Sharks practice]

Karlsson will be an alternate captain in his second season with the franchise, and one would naturally expect him to benefit from having played a year in the system. He ranked sixth among NHL defensemen in points per game (0.85) last year, and with the departures San Jose suffered in free agency, it wouldn't be surprising to see that rate increase in the season ahead, particularly considering Karlsson says he feels "back to normal" after offseason surgery to address the injury that hampered him a year ago.

Assuming Karlsson stays healthy this coming season, you can expect him to be ranked even higher a year from now.

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Mic'd-up Joe Thornton's youthful energy on display at Sharks practice

Whether or not Joe Thornton is a national treasure is debatable, but he's certainly a regional one.

The future Hall of Famer was mic'd up at a recent Sharks' practice, and he put that quality on display. The 40-year-old didn't appear as if his age has caught up to him, as he was quite talkative and involved throughout.

Just watch for yourself:

Whether it was chasing on the forecheck or missing an empty net, the eldest member of the Sharks looked anything but. Enjoying his first healthy offseason in recent memory, Thornton's energy is certainly palpable, and that bodes well for the Sharks as they attempt to get back to the playoffs for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons.

Thornton signed a one-year contract at the beginning of the month to return to the Sharks for his 15th season in San Jose. He'll be one of four alternate captains on the team, after Logan Couture was named the 10th full-time captain in franchise history, taking over for the departed Joe Pavelski.

With Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist leaving in free agency during the offseason, the Sharks are counting on several prospects to take a step forward this coming season -- and on Thornton to help them succeed at the NHL level. While line pairings are still in flux, it wouldn't be shocking whatsoever to see Thornton paired with one of those prospects on his wing.

[RELATED: Sharks' roster hopefuls still 'auditioning' as season nears]

Based on Thornton's mic'd up session, he'll be talking that prospects' ear off all game long.