Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win vs. Vegas in Game 5

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win vs. Vegas in Game 5


SAN JOSE – It was do-or-die for the Sharks on Thursday night, with the fate of their Stanley Cup playoffs run hanging in the balance. San Jose rose to the occasion in fine fashion in Game 5 of the first round, beating the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 to extend the best-of-seven series. 

Here are three takeaways from Game 5.

Preventing that early goal made a huge difference

Giving up a goal in the first five minutes of Games 2 through 4 wasn't the only reason the Sharks lost all three games. But it’s amazing how different their overall game looked when they buckled down, and didn’t allow Vegas to get that early jump Thursday. Even though Vegas had the advantage on the shot clock through the first 20 minutes, San Jose was visibly doing a better job breaking up the Golden Knights' offense. 

It didn’t hurt that goaltender Martin Jones had a bounce-back performance after giving up two goals on seven shots in his previous start. He made a couple of big saves early in the second period when the team in front of him wasn’t getting any good scoring chances. But, perhaps his best save came on Reilly Smith in the third period while the Knights pressed for a game-tying goal.

The blue line put forward its best effort since Game 1

It was incredible how much more sound San Jose’s defense was with Marc-Edouard back in the lineup. After he exited Game 2, the blue line really struggled in his absence. In his return Thursday, San Jose’s defense did a significantly better job taking the ice away from Vegas.

Also helping was the fact the duties were more evenly divvied up among the defensemen with Vlasic back in the lineup. Brent Burns was better with Vlasic back as his defense partner. Erik Karlsson – who looked much faster and healthier than he did in Games 3 and 4 – could once again play around 22 minutes, but Vlasic (23:43) was there to slot the remaining defensemen in their proper places. Brenden Dillon, Karlsson's partner, gets honorable mention for laying some monster hits on Vegas.

[RELATED: Stop the presses! Sharks take first lead in a week]

What to work on for Game 6

With some momentum back in their favor, the Sharks can extend their season again in Game 6. They’ll have the best chance of doing that if they keep their defense tight – and tighten up on their special teams.

Even though Tomas Hertl got the power-play goal late in the third period, San Jose still needs to capitalize on more of its chances. The Sharks will also need to beware of going to the penalty box in Game 6, because both of Vegas' goals in Game 5 came on the power play. With Game 6 back in front of a raucous Vegas crowd, the Golden Knights will work extra hard to draw an emotional response from the Sharks, as was the case late in Game 4. 

If the Sharks can fix those areas, though, they could return to the Tank for a Game 7. 

NHL draft lottery: How Sharks will be impacted by league's new setup

NHL draft lottery: How Sharks will be impacted by league's new setup

24 NHL teams can now turn their full attention to the restarting of the currently-paused season. The Sharks are not one of them.

Having slipped into last place in the Western Conference just prior to the indefinite pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Jose did not qualify for the expanded postseason structure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described Tuesday. The Sharks' season, as well as those of the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres, are now over.

Which means, it's time to turn their attention to the offseason.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has his work cut out for him. The Sharks finished the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign with their worst points percentage in his 16-year tenure at the helm. There are some obvious needs that must be addressed. Of course, they won't be able to utilize their own first-round draft pick -- which they gave up in the trade to acquire Eric Karlsson -- in order to do so.

Bettman announced that the first phase of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery will be held on Friday, June 26, and really, there is no change as far as San Jose is concerned. As the team with the third-worst points percentage, the Sharks' first-round pick (owned by Ottawa) will have the same odds of landing first overall -- 11.5 percent -- as it would have anyway. Obviously, though, no matter where it ends up, the selection will belong to the Senators.

15 teams in total will be included in the lottery, which is the same as prior years. The seven teams that didn't qualify for the expanded playoffs will be joined by the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round. It's fairly complex, but as it relates to the Sharks, their first-round pick automatically will fall within the top six overall selections. Ottawa's own first-round pick is guaranteed to fall within the top five, and combined with San Jose's first-rounder, there is a great chance the Senators will have two picks in the top five, if not the top three.

That's tremendous for Ottawa, and might make things look even bleaker for the Sharks. But, the fact of the matter is, we've known San Jose wouldn't have its own first-rounder for quite some time now, and more importantly, it was the right decision to make. Hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy to question it now, but players like Karlsson are not a dime a dozen. He is on the shortlist of the best defensemen in the NHL, and the package San Jose gave up for him -- even including the 2020 first-rounder -- absolutely was worth it. You make that trade 100 times out of 100, and the same goes for the extension, too.

So, yes, the Sharks likely will miss out on a chance to acquire one of the top overall talents in the upcoming draft, but that can't be viewed in a vacuum. Not to mention, San Jose actually does own a first-round pick in the draft, which they acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Barclay Goodrow at the trade deadline. 

[RELATED: What you need to know as Sharks' long offseason begins]

The Lightning had the second-best points percentage in the Eastern Conference when the season was paused, so it is impossible that their first-round selection will fall within the first 15 overall picks, as they're not subject to the qualifying round. The earlier Tampa Bay gets eliminated, however, the earlier their first-rounder -- owned by the Sharks -- will fall in the first round.

So, Sharks fans, rather than waste energy lamenting the first-rounder San Jose doesn't have, google Karlsson highlights and root against the Lightning. That ought to make you feel a little better.

Vegas Knights troll Sharks, LA Kings after making 2019-20 NHL playoffs

Vegas Knights troll Sharks, LA Kings after making 2019-20 NHL playoffs

You don't kick a team when they are down.

Clearly, the Vegas Golden Knights didn't get that memo.

During the NHL's Return To Play announcement Tuesday, the Golden Knights sent out a tweet directed at the Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, two of its Pacific Division rivals.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that 24 of the 31 teams will qualify for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Seven teams, including the Sharks and Kings, will not resume playing and will prepare for the NHL draft lottery and the 2020-21 season.

When the NHL was paused on March 12 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Sharks held the worst record in the Western Conference.

Adding insult to injury, the Sharks won't even get to keep their lottery draft pick as it will go to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Erik Karlsson trade.

[RELATED: What's next for Sharks?]

While the Sharks and Kings sit at home, Vegas will be one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference, and will play in a round robin tournament with the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars to determine seeding.

Sharks fans didn't need another reason to root against the Golden Knights, but Vegas gave it to them.