Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in solid 3-1 win over Blue Jackets

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in solid 3-1 win over Blue Jackets

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SAN JOSE -- After a couple days of somber news, the Sharks were smiling again Thursday night after finishing off a 3-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets at SAP Center.

Following a scoreless first period, San Jose (20-22-4) broke things open with two straight goals to start the second. The Sharks' power-play continued to stay hot, and Aaron Dell had an answer whenever the Blue Jackets (21-16-8) appeared to seize some momentum, finishing with 29 saves on 30 shots.

The two points will prove helpful as San Jose attempts to climb back in the playoff race, and should provide some confidence after losing Logan Couture to injury for several weeks.

Here are the takeaways from the much-needed victory:

Karlsson delivers

The Sharks have experienced some terrible luck and timing ever since signing Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract extension in the offseason, but the fact that San Jose is having a down season certainly is not a reflection on him or that decision. If you're lucky enough to acquire a player of Karlsson's caliber, you do not let him get away. His perfomance against the Blue Jackets was further proof as to why.

Karlsson set up each of San Jose's first two goals. He didn't get an assist on the first one, but without his slick pass to Evander Kane away from the movement of the defense, the puck never ends up in front of Columbus' crease for Kevin Labanc to punch it in. Karlsson wasn't kept off the scoresheet much longer, however, as he got the primary assist on Joe Thornton's power-play goal midway through the second period after waiting out the defense and setting up Thornton with an open lane to the net.

Those were two phenomenal setups, and the kind we've come to take for granted from Karlsson since he makes those special plays so often. 

Burns redeems himself

Brent Burns must have been paying close attention to Karlsson, because he came up with a perfect setup of his own. The only problem was, it was to the wrong team. Late in the second period, Burns had a terrible giveaway in the defensive zone, and in the blink of an eye, the puck was in the back of San Jose's net.

Burns can be somewhat of a double-edged sword, though, and both sides were on display against Columbus. Just over two minutes into the third period, Burns erased his previous mistake, as he found himself in the right place at the right time, scoring off a backhand to put the Sharks up 3-1 after meandering around the offensive zone.

The giveaway was bad. Real bad. But with Burns, sometimes you have to take the bad with the good.

Don't mess with Dillon

Brenden Dillon continues to make himself an attractive trade candidate.

The Sharks would love to keep him, but with their postseason hopes already looking grim before Couture went down with a fractured ankle, general manager Doug Wilson might have to make some tough decisions. Dillon plays a tremendously physical style -- the kind that is required to succeed come playoff time -- and he is expected to garner plenty of interest from other teams.

[RELATED: Vlasic has been special from beginning]

Dillon was solid once again Thursday against the Jackets, but arguably his most important contribution came in the form of his typical physical play. When Columbus captain Nick Foligno took a run at Labanc a few minutes after Burns' goal, Dillon immediately came to the defense of his teammate and fought Foligno.

Dillon got plenty of stick taps from the Sharks' bench following the tussle, and you can be sure GMs around the league approved of his actions as well.

Joe Pavelski's game-winner vs. Jets symbolic of clutch Sharks' tenure

Joe Pavelski's game-winner vs. Jets symbolic of clutch Sharks' tenure

Programming note: Joe Pavelski's game-winning goal in the Sharks' thrilling, last-second 2019 victory over the Winnipeg Jets will re-air on Saturday, April 4 at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay California.

What a game. What a finish.

Joe Pavelski served as captain in multiple capacities throughout his time with the Sharks. Captain of San Jose, Captain America, and frequently, Captain Clutch. On March 12, 2019 against the Winnipeg Jets, both bookend descriptions were apt.

The Sharks entered the game on quite a run. They were undefeated in March, riding a five-game winning streak, including an impressive 3-0 road shutout over the Minnesota Wild the night before. Marc-Edouard Vlasic got San Jose on the board first, but Winnipeg responded with two goals over the ensuing 65 seconds, an early sign that the Sharks would have their hands full.

San Jose pulled even before the first intermission, and both sides managed to score once in the second period. Precisely two minutes into the third, Marcus Sorensen gave the Sharks their first lead since Vlasic's opening goal, but Matheiu Perreault knotted things up for the Jets with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, setting up for what appeared to be an overtime finish.
Pavelski never let it get that far.

With less than 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Winnipeg broke into San Jose's defensive zone, but Vlasic got a stick on a Jets' cross-ice pass, turning a scary defensive situation into an odd-man rush opportunity. Timo Meier raced up the open ice and collected the puck right as he crossed Winnipeg's blue line. Coming in at high speed, Meier attempted to set up Pavelski for the game-winning goal by lifting a saucer pass over the lone remaining Jets' defenseman's stick.

Before the puck reconnected with the ice, Pavelski swatted it out of mid-air, directly into the back of the net with 4.3 seconds left on the clock.

Game over. Winning streak extended in Winnipeg.

It was the usual suspect. Throughout Sharks franchise history, only Patrick Marleau has accounted for more game-winning goals than Pavelski's 60. Though it wasn't apparent at the time, his game-winner against at the Jets that night turned out to be the final one he scored for San Jose. Pavelski departed for the Dallas Stars in free agency last offseason, and while his goal total (14) might be on the decline, he hasn't lost his penchant for the clutch (three game-winners).

[RELATED: How COVID-19 impacts Sharks' salary cap, draft planning]

Pavelski worked his way from being the No. 205 overall pick in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft to being named captain of the United States National Team. Though not the biggest or fastest skater, there was never a harder worker. He endeared himself to Sharks fans through his leadership and effort, and those 355 regular-season and 48 playoff goals didn't hurt either.

Sharks' captain. Captain America. Captain Clutch. Any and all will do.

If you need a reminder as to why, tune into NBC Sports California tonight at 9 p.m.

How coronavirus could impact Sharks' salary cap, 2020 NHL Draft plans

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AP

How coronavirus could impact Sharks' salary cap, 2020 NHL Draft plans

While the Sharks' top priority is the health and safety of their players, employees and surrounding community, there's no denying that the indefinite pause of the NHL season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is going to severely impact San Jose's bottom line.

Though Sharks president Jonathan Becher couldn't give a specific value, he admitted Tuesday that the financial losses would "be a big number" and will "significantly exceed what [the franchise] traditionally experiences and be the largest it has been before."

San Jose is not alone in that reality. With no games being played, all 31 NHL teams are going to experience something similar.

Even so, Becher anticipates that the Sharks will spend up to the salary cap this offseason. Of course, nobody knows if or when the current season will resume, when the next one will begin or what the salary cap will be set at. F

or general manager Doug Wilson, whose directive is to get San Jose back to a level of contention in short order, the ambiguity of the situation isn't a desirable added challenge and he must have contingencies prepared.

"This is a difficult situation for everybody, as a community, as a society -- and that's what the priority is," Wilson said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. "On the hockey side, we look at it and we say, OK, when it does start up -- and it will start up again, whether it be for this season or next season -- here are the parameters we have to operate under.

"We may need to have younger players coming, or players on entry-level contracts. We may have to make some tough decisions on some key players. That's just going to be the nature of our business. We've had to go through this before, and as I said, it's the same for everybody. So, you plan and you go down parallel paths of, whatever may come, you're prepared for. It doesn't make it easy, but that's our job."

Wilson hasn't been through a previous pandemic with the NHL, but he was the Sharks' GM during the 2004-05 lockout, which is about as close as the league has recently been to the current situation. He is hopeful those tough decisions are kept to a minimum, but he isn't wasting valuable time and energy worrying about what might or might not happen.

"I think every team has got that same concern," Wilson responded when asked about potentially buying out one or more players. "Am I fearful? No. It'll be mandated to us what the rules are moving forward, what the cap is and all that. So, until then, we just focus on the things that we can focus on, which is preparing for the draft, preparing for some decisions with players that could be available, such as Brinson [Pasichnuk] and John [Leonard].

"We've got a couple more things in the hopper that we're looking at right now. Potentially, who could be UFAs. You look under every rock to find ways to get better."

Just this week, Wilson got two collegiate stars in Pasichnuk and Leonard to agree to join the organization. Leonard was San Jose's sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft who just finished as the NCAA's leading goal scorer and a Hobey Baker award finalist for UMass, while Pasichnuk was a three-year standout at Arizona State. Suddenly, that 2018 draft, in which the Sharks drafted top prospect Ryan Merkeley and selected another who ultimately was traded for high-scoring Swede Jonathan Dahlen, has the look of a franchise-altering one.

Given the current state of the Sharks, Wilson knows the upcoming 2020 draft class must do the same. He reloaded San Jose's pick arsenal at the trade deadline, and the Sharks will now go into the 2020 NHL draft with seven selections, including three in the first 60 picks.

Wilson and his staff are doing their best to capitalize on such a crucial draft, though social distancing has forced them to get creative. Like so many of us, they've been staying in touch through teleconferencing, and despite the unprecedented situation, Wilson feels they're "extremely well prepared."

[RELATED: Wilson seems likely to bring Boughner back as Sharks coach]

Nonetheless, he's feeling the pressure to hit it out of the park.

"It's not the perfect-case scenario," Wilson explained. "It isn't. But it is the same for everybody. Our guys are on top of it. They have meetings every day. They're exploring, gathering as much game tape and as much knowledge. I know the league and the combine will provide us with every piece of information they can, but it's just going to be different.

And it's a very important year for us with three picks in the top 60 in a draft that we think has got a lot of things we're looking for -- especially in the top 60 picks. We've got to get it right. It means more work and more focus without as much information as we usually have. So be it."

Yes, the coronavirus pandemic will greatly impact the Sharks' financial bottom line. But the bottom line for Wilson is that his directive remains unchanged.