Sharks takeaways: What we learned in exciting 5-2 win over Maple Leafs


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in exciting 5-2 win over Maple Leafs


In a thoroughly entertaining, back-and-forth game, the Sharks continued their recent stretch of strong play with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at SAP Center. Stefan Noesen scored the game-winner early in the third period and Martin Jones made several incredible saves in net to preserve the victory.

Against the uber-talented Maple Leafs, San Jose got contributions from throughout its lineup, with the first and fourth lines each scoring multiple goals. Evander Kane was flying all night long, and added two more goals to his team-leading total.

Jones got his third consecutive start in goal, and rewarded interim coach Bob Boughner with a highlight-reel performance that included a number of jaw-dropping saves. With the win, the Sharks are now halfway through an undefeated six-game homestand.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's second straight win over an Eastern Conference contender:

Talent mismatch 

The Sharks had the higher quantity of goals in the game, but the talent mismatch between the two teams was evident in how the Maple Leafs scored theirs. Toronto has quite a stable of extremely talented forwards, and they left their mark on the night.

San Jose took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but that was erased when Auston Matthews scored his 46th goal of the season, which ranks as the second most in the NHL. Tuesday marked Matthews' seventh career game against the Sharks, and the San Ramon native has now accounted for eight goals in those contests, including at least one in each game.

Later in the second frame, Matthews was one-upped by his linemate Mitch Marner, who went between the legs for a goal that you'll be seeing on all the highlight shows for plenty of time to come.

Toronto certainly had the quality. San Jose had the advantage where it mattered, though.

Quite a response

Just over a minute after Matthews tied things up, the Sharks went back in front thanks to Antti Suomela's first goal of the season. 

It was exactly the kind of response that had been lacking throughout much of San Jose's struggles this season. All night long, the Sharks kept the pressure on, and didn't allow Toronto to carry the play for many extended stretches.

With the score tied entering the third, the game was hanging in the balance -- temporarily, that is. Suomela got the only assist on Noesen's game-winning goal less than six minutes into the frame, and 50 seconds later, Kane doubled San Jose's advantage. From that point on, whenever Toronto threatened, Jones had an answer.

The Maple Leafs are fighting for playoff positioning. The Sharks aren't. You wouldn't have been able to tell by the fight San Jose showed Tuesday night.

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Ample motivation

While the Sharks' three-game winning streak is admittedly a small sample size, it's certainly better than the alternative. San Jose could have thrown in the towel and given up on the season a while ago -- and at times, it looked like the team might have done so -- but based on the last week, it's abundantly clear the Sharks are taking this opportunity seriously, even if it's not the one they hoped to have.

Suomela's performance was the latest example of some of San Jose's younger forwards showing signs of life. Jones has been on quite a roll, and Tuesday might have been his most promising showcase yet. For those who next season isn't enough of a motivating factor, playing the role of spoiler appears to be doing the trick.

There are 16 games remaining on the Sharks' regular-season schedule. They're not going to the playoffs, but they still have plenty left to play for.

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

Twenty-four 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 Erik 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. 

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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 their 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.

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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.