Brent Burns

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns named 2019 Norris Trophy finalist

NHL awards: Sharks' Brent Burns named 2019 Norris Trophy finalist

The NHL confirmed Sunday what we've known pretty much all season: Brent Burns is a Norris Trophy finalist.

The award is given annually to the defenseman voted to have demonstrated the greatest all-around ability at the position throughout the season.

The finalist designation comes as no surprise, after Burns -- who previously won the Norris for the first time in 2017 -- led all NHL defensemen in assists (67), points (83), game-winning goals (six) and shots on goal (300) during the regular season. He's the first defenseman in Sharks history with at least 60 assists in a season, and he ranked second among NHL defensemen in short-handed points (five) and was seventh in average ice time (25:06).

Joining Burns as Norris finalists are Calgary's Mark Giordano and Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman. Giordano finished second among NHL defensemen in regular-season scoring with 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists), and led all NHL players with a plus-39 rating. Hedman, the reigning Norris winner, tallied 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) for the Lightning, who led the NHL with a plus-98 goal differential. Both Calgary and Tampa Bay finished with the best records in their respective conferences, but both were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round.

The winner will be announced at the 2019 NHL Awards, presented by Bridgestone, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center sports and entertainment complex June 19 in Las Vegas.

Burns already is the only Norris Trophy winner in Sharks franchise history. A second award would be well-deserved but surely isn't at the forefront of his mind with San Jose's must-win Game 6 against the Vegas Golden Knights taking place later Sunday.

[RELATED: Sharks look to overcome past in do-or-die Game 6 in Vegas]

Joining Burns in Vegas for the 2019 NHL Awards will be fellow Sharks Joe Thornton and Brenden Dillon.

Thornton is nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player who, "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Dillon, meanwhile, has been nominated for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, given to the player who "best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community."

Sharks must make changes with no Marc-Edouard Vlasic vs. Golden Knights

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Sharks must make changes with no Marc-Edouard Vlasic vs. Golden Knights

After two days of mystery, the Sharks have confirmed that defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be out of the lineup for Game 3 after sustaining an undisclosed injury in San Jose's Game 2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tim Heed will fill in Vlasic's place when the Sharks take the ice at T-Mobile Arena for Sunday night's Stanley Cup playoff game.

So, what exactly do the Sharks have to do to not let the absence affect their game?

As was discussed on NBC Sports California’s live Facebook Q&A earlier Sunday morning, San Jose will benefit if its defense plays a “measured” game. Not just a full 60-minute game, but a consistent one as well.

A prime example of inconsistency is the effort in Game 2: After putting so much energy and emotion into rallying out of a 3-0 hole to tie the score at 3 before the first intermission, the Sharks’ overall game fell back on its heels.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said in his pregame chat with the media that he wants his team to do a better job of “stopping the bleeding” if the Knights grab onto the momentum. Playing a more measured game can help with that.

Vlasic’s absence also will require other blueliners to step up and give the team steady ice time. San Jose relied heavily on Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson after Vlasic exited Game 2, with Burns clocking 28:36 minutes of ice time and Karlsson skating 29:08 minutes. Getting more time from Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun can help keep the Sharks' defensive effort be more consistent.

But DeBoer told the media Sunday morning that he also wants to see Heed and Joakim Ryan “give us minutes” -- certainly a stark contrast to the 7:34-minute outing that Ryan logged in Game 2. Since DeBoer has kept his defensive pairings a bit fluid at the start of this first-round series, there’s a chance Ryan and Heed could be moved around during the game even though Ryan was paired with Burns during practice, while Heed skated with Braun.

However the pairs shake up, San Jose’s defense has to stop Vegas from taking an early lead and building momentum.

“The one thing they’ve been very good at has been grabbing momentum and then building on it,” DeBoer said of the Golden Knights. He said he wants to see his team respond right after the fact, “whether that’s a save, a kill, whatever it is. A shot block, a momentum shift right after.”

[RELATED: How Vlasic injury would affect Sharks in Game 3 vs. Vegas]

San Jose already has its hands full as the Round 1 series shifts buildings. The Sharks had a 1-1-0 regular-season record in the Golden Knights’ home barn, but they went 1-2-0 there during last year’s playoffs and were outscored 15-7. Additionally, the Sharks’ power play, which struggled in Game 2, registered just 18.8 percent in last year’s playoffs, with three goals in 16 opportunities on the man advantage.

On a positive note, however, San Jose’s penalty kill fared well at T-Mobile during last year’s playoffs, functioning at 75 percent.

How Marc-Edouard Vlasic injury would affect Sharks in Game 3 vs. Vegas

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How Marc-Edouard Vlasic injury would affect Sharks in Game 3 vs. Vegas

SAN JOSE — Bumps and bruises are something the Sharks are quite accustomed to dealing with, whether in the regular season or a tough playoff series. Heck, San Jose captain Joe Pavelski scored a goal off his face in Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, and was ready to go for Game 2 on Friday after spending a few hours in the dentist’s chair in between. 

Now, just as the series shifts to Las Vegas for Games 3 and 4, the injury bug has bitten the Sharks' blue line. While they have the bodies to fill that void, it’s still a mystery as to how exactly they will make up for that absence. 

The status of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic remains a mystery after he left the ice during the second period of Game 2, a 5-3 loss to the Golden Knights. The exact nature of his injury hasn’t been disclosed, although Vlasic did block a Shea Theodore shot that appeared to hit him in the arm. With Vlasic out of the lineup for the better part of Friday’s game, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer relied heavily on blue-liners Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson to pick up the slack. 

DeBoer relied on the strategy during the regular season when San Jose’s lineup sustained its fair share of injuries, and the playoffs are no exception.

“Guys go down in the playoffs,” DeBoer said after Game 2. “We had to have some guys take some extra minute because of that. But you’ve got to be prepared to play short this time of year.”

San Jose’s best blue-liners are used to playing extra minutes to fill in for injured teammates. In a season in which Karlsson, Vlasic, Justin Braun and Radim Simek missed time with various injuries, Burns played 25:06 per game. By the end of the game Friday evening, Burns had registered 28:36 of ice time while Karlsson – in just his third game back from his own injury woes – tallied a whopping 29:08. Keep in mind that San Jose did have eight power-play opportunities, and both players saw plenty of time on the man advantage. 

The question now isn’t so much whether DeBoer will use this same method in Game 3. If Vlasic isn’t able to play in Game 3 and Tim Heed is penciled into the lineup, Burns and Karlsson likely are going to play the bulk of the game. 

But, it's worth pondering whether the Sharks would be better off if other defenesmen also played more. Since Joakim Ryan only skated 7:34 in Game 2, it’s unlikely he’ll skate too much more in Game 3 -- even if Vlasic can't suit up. If the Sharks spend less time on special teams in Game 3, however, giving Braun and Brenden Dillon more playing time could prevent Burns and Karlsson from wearing down. 

[RELATED: Five observations as Sharks-Vegas heads to Sin City]

No matter how the lineup shakes out in Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena, San Jose’s blue line has to start the game off tight in order to make their own job easier. After a strong Game 1 performance, Game 2 on Friday was rife with turnovers and loose play through the neutral zone. A solid start from whoever has those first shifts of the game could make every other Sharks defenseman's job easier.

Of course, we won’t know how the lineup will look until before Game 3 on Sunday. But should Vlasic be out of the lineup on Sunday in Las Vegas, all eyes will be on the defense's ice time.