Three takeaways: PK strong; too many passengers for Sharks against Canucks

Three takeaways: PK strong; too many passengers for Sharks against Canucks

SAN JOSE – It wasn’t a pretty sight, but the Sharks managed to scratch past the Canucks on Tuesday to sweep their home-and-home with miserable Vancouver. A few things went right, such as some of the depth guys coming through on the scoresheet, but there were also far too many passengers - young and veteran alike - in a game that the Sharks were without their top two centers. Let’s take a closer look…

1 – Penalty kill effective, but just one power play

The Sharks’ penalty kill was better than it had been in recent weeks, holding the Canucks to no goals and seven shots in three full two-minute advantages. Entering the game, the PK was just 8-for-13 over the last five games (61.5 percent), and 16-for-23 in the last 10 games (69.6 percent).

Chris Tierney said: “I thought the guys did a really good job. [Martin Jones] made some key saves.”

As Joe Pavelski mentioned after the game, Vancouver potentially taking advantage of its power plays, “was an area that’s probably the only way that team is getting back at that moment.”

The Sharks' power play will be a work in progress without Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. They had just one advantage and didn’t register a single shot while deploying two new units.

“Like to get a few more reps,” Pavelski said. “In a game like last one and this one, [in the] playoffs, not a whole lot is called. … You might only get one, so you’ve got to be ready for it.”

The captain expressed concern that the team hasn’t been drawing many penalties lately. The Sharks have had two or fewer power play attempts in four of their last five games, and just 10 total over that span.

“We’ve got to create a little bit more,” he said. “Put refs in situations where they’ve got to think about calling penalties on us. I think that’s one area we can improve on.”

2 – Jones returning to form

If the Sharks do end up beginning the playoffs without Thornton and Couture, they’re going to need Jones to steal at least one or two games if they hope to advance. Perhaps the biggest positive from Tuesday’s game was that he looks like he’s greatly improving after a concerning stretch.

The 27-year-old said he just had to make some “minor, minor small adjustments,” without going into too much detail.

DeBoer was blunt in his criticism of Jones after the 5-2 loss in Calgary on Friday in which the coach said a couple of the Flames’ goals “probably shouldn’t have gone in.”

What does he think of Jones lately?

“He’s been fantastic the last two games,” DeBoer said. “Get him in a rhythm, that’s the most important thing for us [along with getting] healthy going into the playoffs here.”

3 – Playoff meeting with Edmonton even more likely

The Sharks’ win, combined with an Oilers loss and the Ducks’ victory over Calgary, means that a San Jose-Edmonton first round matchup just became much more likely. San Jose can’t be caught by Calgary, while with the Sharks and Oilers each trail first place Anaheim by four points.

Thursday’s game with the Oilers could end up determining which of the teams has home ice in the first round. If the Sharks win Thursday and beat Calgary on Saturday, Game 1 will be at SAP Center.

“Win the next two and kind of get rolling going into the playoffs,” Joel Ward said.

Of course, the Sharks are going to have to be a whole lot better against the Oilers on Thursday. Frankly, if they repeat the kind of performance they had against Vancouver, they’ll probably get smoked. That means more effort from more places, including the younger depth guys and players like Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns, who weren't very good Tuesday.

Asked about that upcoming Edmonton game, Pavelski said: “I’m not overly worried about it right now. “I’ve seen some of these guys and how they can play. If you look back to last year’s team, we had guys playing at the top of their game. It wasn’t one, two, three guys. It was everybody. 

“Right now, we’re kind of that edge where we’ve got guys on top of their games one night and then off. We need to elevate our game as a group, and we’ll be alright.”

While Erik Karlsson tries to fit in, Sharks just want him to be himself

While Erik Karlsson tries to fit in, Sharks just want him to be himself

SAN JOSE -- At his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon, new Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson drew an interesting parallel when he was asked about trying to fit into a new team, after being the leading man for so long. 

The Swede mentioned playing for his national team at best-on-best tournaments; first at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and then at the World Cup of Hockey two years later. 

“It was something that I always enjoyed,” Karlsson told reporters, “And I think that it challenged me to do things in a different way sometimes … I’m looking forward to that here as well.”

It’s not necessarily an outlandish comparison. The salary-capped Sharks aren’t as good as a Swedish national team that, if its latest World Cup iteration played in the NHL, would have been about $28 million over the current upper limit. But, Karlsson’s move from the 67-point Ottawa Senators to the 100-point Sharks in last week’s blockbuster trade represents a significant upgrade in the talent surrounding him.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner joins a defense corps featuring another Norris recipient (Brent Burns) and a shutdown defenseman with international pedigree of his own (Marc-Edouard Vlasic), on a team led by a Hart Trophy winner (Joe Thornton), the NHL’s sixth-leading scorer since 2013-14 (Joe Pavelski), and the fourth-best player by Corsica Hockey’s wins above replacement (WAR) model last season (Logan Couture). 

“We’re a good hockey team,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us. There’s a lot of good teams in the West, but I think [the Karlsson trade] puts us in position to have the ingredients to go compete with all the top teams.” 

Karlsson, then, just might be the active ingredient for a franchise still looking for its first Stanley Cup. He has two Norris Trophies to his name, four first-team All-Star appearances, and more points than any other defenseman since he entered the league. He led the Senators to within a double-overtime goal of the Stanley Cup Final just over a year ago, and scored more points than all but five defenders in a “down” year last season. 

If anything, Karlsson may have undersold his role on the Swedish national team when making the comparison. 

At the Sochi Olympics, Karlsson tied for the tournament lead with eight points, winning a silver medal. The Swedes weren’t as successful at the World Cup two years ago, but Karlsson still tied for the team lead in scoring. He also led his team in ice time in three out of four games, edging out the likes of Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman and Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson. 

The former ultimately won the Norris Trophy last season, while the latter will have the third-highest salary cap hit ($8.25 million) of any defenseman next season, when his eight-year contract extension kicks in.

In other words? “He’s one of the best players on the planet,” according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer, and not just because of his offensive ability. 

“We can use him in every situation,” DeBoer said Wednesday of his newest defenseman, adding that Karlsson was one of “very few players in the world that you could use in the last minute of games when you’re up to shut down the other team’s best players, or use to create offense when you’re behind.”

Karlsson sounded very aware of the situation he’s joining in San Jose. He knows he’s coming to a team that’s “been together for a long time that has good chemistry,” and he said it’s on him to find a way to fit in by doing whatever is asked of him. 

DeBoer indicated he will simply ask the four-time, first-team All-Star to be himself. 

“I don’t think there’s any adjustment,” DeBoer said. “We play up-tempo. We play aggressive. We play the way he plays.

“He’s gonna fit right in.”

The pre-trade meeting that made Erik Karlsson excited about Sharks

The pre-trade meeting that made Erik Karlsson excited about Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was in Ottawa last week to meet with defenseman Erik Karlsson before acquiring him in a blockbuster trade with the Senators. It turns out head coach Peter DeBoer met with Karlsson, too. 

DeBoer, alongside Wilson, met the two-time Norris Trophy winner and his wife, Melinda, in Toronto “maybe a day” before the trade was finalized, he told reporters Wednesday after the day’s first practice session of training camp. The purpose, DeBoer said, was to give Karlsson a a sense of what the Sharks had to offer. 

“It’s a huge investment for the organization,” DeBoer said Wednesday morning. “It’s a huge investment from him and his wife to commit to coming out here and playing here. It was a great information session, and I think we all walked out of there really impressed with the player and the person.”

It’s fair to say Karlsson came away impressed, too.

“I think from that day on, both of our views kind of matched up, and I was extremely excited about everything they had to say,” Karlsson told reporters at his introductory press conference Wednesday. “They were great people right from the start.”

“And they’re still great people,” he added with a laugh. 

After the meeting, the Sharks sealed the deal last Thursday. They acquired Karlsson in a deal that sent two roster players, two prospects, two draft picks, and two more conditional picks to the Senators. 

Before the deal was completed, the Senators gave the Sharks permission to meet with Karlsson, Wilson said Wednesday after the press conference. Karlsson and his wife also spoke with Sharks owner Hasso Plattner several times, Wilson first told reporters Saturday. 

Wilson credited Plattner with giving him and the front office the ability to take go after “difference-makers” like Karlsson, and Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares, whom the Sharks met with ahead of the start of free agency. 

Plattner was in the room when San Jose pitched Tavares at the CAA offices in July, and Wilson said previously that the owner keeps up-to-date with just about everything the team does, even down to the recent rookie tournament in Las Vegas. Karlsson said Wednesday that Plattner’s knowledge stood out. 

“Speaking with [Plattner] was very reassuring,” Karlsson said. “He knew what he was talking about, and he was a very well-spoken man. Hopefully, I get to meet him soon.”

Meeting the owner, head coach, and general manager ultimately made Karlsson comfortable with coming to San Jose, and vice versa. Although Wilson said he would not discuss contract negotiations, he reiterated Wednesday he felt “very comfortable” about locking up the 28-year-old to a long-term extension. 

Karlsson declined to discuss a possible extension as well, keeping the focus of his introductory press conference largely on the upcoming season. But, he said he was grateful that Plattner, Wilson, and DeBoer made the trade “as smooth as it possibly could’ve been.”

“[My wife and I] are extremely happy and excited to be finally here, soak it all in, and start our new adventure," Karlsson said.