Watch Logan Couture tie Game 3 vs. Blues, match Sharks playoff record


Watch Logan Couture tie Game 3 vs. Blues, match Sharks playoff record

The Sharks were 61 seconds away from a two-games-to-one hole in the Western Conference final. 

But with 1:01 remaining in regulation of Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night, Sharks center Logan Couture scored to force overtime at Enterprise Center. With San Jose goaltender Martin Jones pulled, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski redirected a shot at Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington and Couture was there to bury the rebound. 

The goal, Couture's 14th of the postseason, tied Joe Pavelski's franchise record for a single Stanley Cup playoffs. It was also Couture's fifth of the Western Conference final, and he became the 13th player in Sharks history to score five goals in a single playoff round. Pavelski, meanwhile, picked up his 100th career postseason point with the primary helper. 

Couture had been largely blanketed by Blues defenseman Colton Parayko through the first two periods, and he entered the third with no shots on goal or shot attempts. The goal was Couture's fourth shot on frame of the period, and his fifth attempt. 

San Jose led by two goals in two separate instances, only to allow four goals in the second stanza. But thanks to Couture's goal, the Sharks had a chance to take the series lead themselves in overtime. They did 5:32 in to the extra session, thanks to Erik Karlsson's controversial second goal of the night. 

Sharks' biggest takeaways after team's 2019-20 NHL season comes to end

Sharks' biggest takeaways after team's 2019-20 NHL season comes to end

Seventy-six days after the Sharks last played a game, the 2019-20 NHL season officially came to an end for them and six other teams.

During recent weeks, NBC Sports California has been able to FaceTime video chat with a majority of players on the roster to gain better perspectives on where this group has been, where they stand, and where things could be headed.

Here are five defining quotes which stood out:

On big-picture takeaways from 2019-20 season

“We need to get back to playing responsible. There’s got to be an emphasis put on accountability, and playing as a team and family, and for each other. Sometimes we got away from that last year. Not throwing any blame around, but there was a lot of turmoil.”
Bob Boughner, Interim Head Coach (April 15, 2020)

On believing the core group is still the right group

“Coming into that team, if you look at the roster, we shouldn’t be where we are. I think everybody understands that. It’s an off year. They’ve been going deep into the playoffs for years and years. Trying to understand we still have that identity, and the right players on this team to get us back to a playoff hunt and competitive, that’s something [general manager] Doug [Wilson] is really focusing on.”
Stefan Noesen (March 31, 2020)

On the Sharks’ continued defensive struggles

“It’s never just the goalie. It’s the players in front of the goalie and the system. If you go back to last year [2019], Sharks were the only team that made the playoffs with a negative goal differential. The signs were already there last year, they just weren’t adhering and playing the way Pete DeBoer wanted them to play.”
Randy Hahn (March 19, 2020)

On Joe Thornton’s future in the NHL

“I look at this selfishly for Jumbo, hoping that he does come back for us next year. It saves an extra twelve games on the legs and that body. I know he’s going to get a little bit older, but saving some time will help us if he comes back. Which we’re all hoping he does.”
Logan Couture (March 18, 2020)

[RELATED: Where Sharks go from here now that their season is over]

On using struggles as motivation moving forward

“It’s easy to put it behind and focus on the next year. I’ll look back on 2014-15 [missing the playoffs], and then the next year go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. If you look at that and build off that, you know the guys came in next year with something to prove. We’re not that type of team to miss the playoffs. I don’t see why it can’t happen again.”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (March 27, 2020)

Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles

Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles

The Sharks’ season officially is over

Now comes the hard part. 

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson surely has been preparing already, but now he can truly turn the page. The Sharks played their last game on March 11, and they won’t play again until whenever the 2020-21 season begins. 

During that time, Wilson will face the most critical offseason since taking the reins in 2003. He made over a team that finished second-to-last in the Western Conference into a Conference finalist during his first year, but the to-do list is far more daunting after the Sharks finished with their worst points percentage since. 

If the Sharks are going to avoid the first streak of playoff misses during his tenure, Wilson will have to, among other things: 

  • Hire a coach 
  • Find a solution (or two) in net
  • Add scoring depth on the wing 
  • Supplement an aging, expensive core with NHL-ready youth
  • Do each of the last four things under a flat salary cap 

Those are challenging tasks for any general manager, let alone one grappling with an ever-changing reality formed by the continually evolving consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Wilson believes some of the solutions already are in place. He admitted in April that interim bench boss Bob Boughner has the “upper hand” to make his job permanent. Wilson also thinks the Sharks have the right foundation in place, and prospects capable of taking the next step

He also has the benefit of experience. The Sharks made the playoffs after missing them prior to his first season at the organizational helm, and they made the Stanley Cup final the year after the first playoff miss that happened during his tenure. 

This is going to be a heavier lift. 

For one, Wilson had a clean slate in the crease the last time around, and he acquired Martin Jones to replace the departed Antti Niemi. Jones’ contract and trade protection -- as well as the Sharks’ relative lack of draft capital -- will make a similar transition much harder. 

In both 2003 and 2015, Wilson also had a high pick at his disposal. The Sharks got back into the first round after trading Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Lightning’s pick is going to be in the 20s (at best). San Jose picked No. 6 overall in 2003 (Milan Michalek) and No. 9 overall in 2015 (Timo Meier). Only Michalek played in the first season after he was drafted, but both players turned into key contributors who helped the Sharks remain in contention beyond then. 

It’s certainly possible the Sharks can use the Lightning’s pick to find another player in that vein, but Wilson also will have to contend with salary-cap uncertainty. The cap rose $2.4 million in 2015, and that additional space helped the Sharks trade for Jones and sign veterans Paul Martin and Joel Ward as free agents. It might not rise at all next season, with games set to be played in front of empty arenas for the foreseeable future. 

The Sharks could have nearly $18 million in space under a flat salary cap, if none of the crop of young forwards who played this season are penciled in for opening-night roster spots. But San Jose only has five forwards with more than a season’s worth of NHL games under their belts signed past this season. 

Wilson will need to sign or acquire another goalie -- whether it’s pending free agent Aaron Dell or someone else -- and add at least a couple of defensemen, too. He can potentially rely on those aforementioned forwards (and a re-signed Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton) to fill depth-forward roles on the cheap, but cap space could disappear quickly if Wilson hits the free-agent or trade markets to fill holes on the wing and in net. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks should pursue trade for Rangers goalie Georgiev]

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner believes in Wilson’s ability to pull it off. Plattner doesn’t say much, making his January endorsement of Wilson especially telling. The general manager undoubtedly is in a better position now than he was then after restocking the Sharks’ draft-pick cupboard and signing European and collegiate free agents who could, if all goes right, address big needs at low prices. 

Wilson has his work cut out for him, though. Now that the Sharks' season officially is over, it’s only just getting started.