Sharks takeaways: What we learned in Sharks' 4-2 loss to Avalanche

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in Sharks' 4-2 loss to Avalanche


The Sharks began a six-game homestand with three straight wins, and they ended it with three straight losses after Sunday's 4-3 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche. 

San Jose took a 1-0 lead thanks to Joe Thornton's power-play goal in the first period and tied it 2-2 in the second thanks to Melker Karlsson's breakaway. The Sharks couldn't contain the Avalanche's top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Vladislav Namestnikov, however, and former San Jose winger Joonas Donskoi put the game away with his first goal since Jan. 2. Noah Gregor got the Sharks within one late, but San Jose's desperate push for a tying goal fell short. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' underwhelming homestand finale.  

Magnificent MacKinnon

MacKinnon just missed out on the Hart Trophy in 2018, and he arguably was better last season. The 24-year-old showed Sunday why he deserves to be an MVP frontrunner -- if not the favorite -- this season. 

MacKinnon socred or assisted three of the Avalanche's four goals. He unloaded a one-timer on a first-period power play for his 35th goal of the season, then matched his career-high with 58 assists in the second period. The Colorado star undressed Radim Simek with a deke and Landeskog buried the rebound in the second period, while MacKinnon's hounding of Brent Burns forced a turnover and allowed Landeskog to set up Vamestnikov on the Avs' game-winning goal. 

The Sharks limited MacKinnon to five points in an epic seven-game playoff series last spring, but they had no such luck against the superstar Sunday. He'll play San Jose once more this season on March 17, with the 100-point mark in his sights for the first time. 

Hits keep coming 

The Sharks haven't had health on their side during the second half of the season. Captain Logan Couture fractured his ankle on Jan. 7, forward Tomas Hertl tore his left ACL and MCL on Jan. 29 defenseman, Erik Karlsson broke his thumb on Valentine's Day and blueliner Jacob Middleton is "week-to-week" after sustaining a lower-body injury last week. Hertl and Karlsson's injuries were season-ending, while Couture re-joined the Sharks' list of injured players after a deflected puck hit him in the face in the first period. 

Couture's first season as Sharks captain hasn't gone as he envisioned. San Jose likely will miss the playoffs for the first time in five years, and he missed 17 games due to the aforementioned ankle injury. The Sharks didn't release an update on his condition after the game, but he previously required offseason surgery after sustaining a gruesome mouth injury towards the end of the regular season three years ago. 

The 30-year-old said he didn't consider shutting down for the year after his previous injury, and Couture surely will try to return to the lineup if the Sharks medical staff deems a return possible. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Couture doesn't return vs. Avs after puck hits face]

Ageless wonder

Thornton had only scored two goals through his first 60 games. The 40-year-old is on fire since then, though, and his power-play goal in the first period Sunday was his fifth tally in his last nine games. Evander Kane tapped a loose puck to Thornton, and the bearded center beat sprawling three sprawling Avalanche players -- including goaltender Pavel Francouz -- to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. 

Thornton's goal was his seventh of the season and the 420th of his career, with the latter mark tying Bill Barber for the 84th-most in NHL history. The recent hot streak gives Thornton a decent chance of scoring 10 goals in a season for the 19th time in his career, which would be tied for the 15th most in NHL history. 

The veteran is enjoying some well-timed regression to the mean, proving that his shooting percentage through the first 60 games -- 3.3 percent -- shouldn't be considered Thornton's norm when he enters his 23rd NHL season next fall. Thornton isn't the player he once was, but he's proving he can still contribute in his early 40s. 

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. 

[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 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.

[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.