Sharks

Sharks teammates applaud Marcus Sorensen's tenacity in win over Wild

Sharks teammates applaud Marcus Sorensen's tenacity in win over Wild

SAN JOSE -- At the tail end of the Sharks' preseason, Marcus Sorensen was a standout. After splitting time with the big club and its AHL affiliate over the last two seasons, he finally looked ready to contribute on the NHL level every night.

Then after he went through a dry spell -- as players often do -- the floodgates opened Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, as the Swede had a career game with three points in the Sharks' 4-3 win.

Sorensen’s teammates never had any doubt in his game.

“He’s been unbelievable for us,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “He’s great to be around. He’s got a great energy.”

The 26-year-old forward, who had been spending the bulk of his playing time on the Sharks' fourth line, hadn’t found the back of the net since Oct. 11 against the New York Rangers. In fact, he didn’t register another point until Oct. 30, also against New York.

That isn’t to say Sorensen failed to create opportunities, especially on the penalty kill, where he scored that short-handed goal on Oct. 11. Sorensen is one of the reasons San Jose’s penalty kill is ranked third in the entire league, not allowing the opposition to score on the man advantage a whopping 22 consecutive times.

“Even if he’s not scoring,” Burns continued, “he plays a fast game, a hard game. He’s one of our most tenacious guys.”

That tenacity has translated into a physical game as well. Sorensen has registered 14 hits, and he had one dust-up with Anaheim’s Joseph Blandisi on Oct. 28.

Linemate Barclay Goodrow pinpointed Sorensen’s mix of strength and speed as what made him so successful Tuesday night. 

“Marcus uses speed on the forecheck,” Goodrow said. “I thought we turned over a lot of pucks in the offensive zone, which led to offensive zone time and scoring chances.”

Needless to say, this level of play from Sorensen -- and the rest of San Jose’s bottom six, for that matter -- could boost the Sharks on their upcoming road trip. San Jose is setting up to play a back-to-back against two very physical teams in the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis, in particular, has the fourth-most goals scored leaguewide on the season and the third-best power play -- something Sorensen and the Sharks’ penalty kill unit surely will have to face. 

Sorensen’s “tenacity,” as his teammates called it, could go a long way to helping the Sharks have a successful roadie.

Sharks' Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson ranked as top two fantasy defensemen

Sharks' Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson ranked as top two fantasy defensemen

They say defense wins championships -- and although they fell just short of the Stanley Cup Finals last season -- the San Jose Sharks have two of the NHL’s best filling its two starting defensemen spots.

Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns formed a dominant duo in 2018-19, as the two combined for 128 points, with each finishing among the top-10 in the league in points per game among defensemen. 

As prognosticators look toward the 2019-20 season, fantasy hockey players have begun researching for drafts taking place over the next few months. So when thinking about the best defensemen for fantasy purposes, the conversation has to start with the Sharks’ leading pair, at least according to NHL Network’s rankings.

NHL.com’s team of experts project Burns and Karlsson to finish first and second in points for defensemen, with Burns estimated at 80 followed by Karlsson at 73. 

The next closest defenseman is the Stars’ John Klingberg (68) -- who will be teaming up with former Sharks forward Joe Pavelski in the starting six next year.

[RELATED: Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Emerging competitors]

While I advocated for 49ers and Raiders fans to generally avoid drafting their favorite players in fantasy football drafts, I can’t emphasize enough that Burns and Karlsson are a must-have for your fantasy team this season, especially if the Sharks are your team.

Happy drafting.

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Emerging competitors

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Emerging competitors

Editor's Note: Now that the Blues and Capitals have gotten off the Stanley Cup schneid, there's arguably no NHL franchise more "due" to win a Cup than the Sharks. This week, NBC Sports California will examine the five biggest threats to San Jose's championship aspirations in the relatively near future. We conclude with the emerging competition around the league.

Since the start of the 1997-98 season, the Sharks have missed the playoffs a whopping total of two times. 

That's a lot of postseason games. And yet, San Jose has never ended up on top. Moving forward, the greatest threat to the Sharks' ability to win their first Stanley Cup in the not-too-distant future will be the same one that has gotten in the way in all previous seasons in franchise history: the rest of the NHL.

There are currently 31 teams in the league. A 32nd -- the unnamed Seattle expansion franchise -- will join in 2021-22. The Sharks won't have to go through each and every one of them to raise the Cup, but there's more than enough to ruin their dreams.

Let's start small and look solely at the Pacific Division. San Jose has yet to win a division title under the new conference format, with last season's second-place finish in the Pacific being their best yet. The Flames improved by 23 points over the previous season to win the division title, and they're not going to fall off anytime soon.

Neither is the Sharks' newest major rival -- the Vegas Golden Knights. In two seasons in the league, they've given San Jose fits. The two sides are now at one postseason series apiece, but it wouldn't shock anyone if there were several more in the coming years.

Those three were the only Pacific teams to qualify for the playoffs last season, but the ones that didn't won't be down for long. The Coyotes are loaded with promising young players, the Canucks and Ducks are in the process of retooling, the Kings have nowhere to go but up and the Oilers have the best player in the NHL.

When Seattle joins the Pacific in 2020, San Jose better pray it doesn't hit the ground running like Vegas did in its expansion season.

Now let's move to the other division in the Western Conference. The Blues just defeated the Sharks on their way to winning the Cup, and they finished third in the Central Division. The Predators and Jets have some of the deepest rosters in the NHL, the Stars just added Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, and the Avalanche have an abundance of young talent and cap space to continue their ascension. The Blackhawks just added another top-three draft pick, and while the Wild might not be headed in the right direction, a turnaround isn't out of the question.

That's just the West.

In the East, there's the record-setting Lightning, the always-formidable Bruins, Auston Matthews' Maple Leafs, Sidney Crosby's Penguins, the threatening Capitals and a bunch of teams poised to take a major leap in the coming years.

There's been formidable competition for the Sharks every season they've been in the NHL. It's not anything new, and is the main reason why they are one of 11 franchises yet to win a Stanley Cup. Of those 11, only the Canucks and Sabres have appeared in more playoff games than the Sharks in their respective franchise histories, and both Vancouver and Buffalo entered the league 21 seasons before San Jose did.

The Sharks can prepare for the upcoming expansion draft. They can hold out hope there won't be another lockout, use financial creativity to create more salary cap space and balance the roster with younger players to offset the aging core. All of that is within their control. 

[RELATED: Why salary cap issues are threat to Sharks' Cup hopes]

The 30 other NHL teams -- soon to be 31 -- most definitely are not.

The greatest threat to the Sharks' ability to win a Stanley Cup in the relatively near future is the same one they've yet to prove they can overcome.