San Jose Sharks 2020-21 NHL season preview

San Jose Sharks 2020-21 NHL season preview
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The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we preview the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose Sharks 2019-20 Rewind

Record: 29-36-5 (63 points); eighth in the Pacific Division; last in the Western Conference.

Leading scorers: Evander Kane (26 goals), Timo Meier (49 points)

It’s no secret that a team’s competitive window can shut violently in sports. Yet, even by Father Time’s already harsh standards, the 2019-20 season was shockingly brutal for the San Jose Sharks.

Many of us chalk that up to one too many key players suffering from the pitfalls of the aging curve. Erik Karlsson — one of those players — merely hopes that it was an aberration. But, truly, it’s tough not to be haunted by what we saw from the Sharks.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t surprising that the Sharks struggled to keep pucks out of their net. Between leaky goaltending and some lax defense, we’ve seen signs of issues before. It just seems like everything got that much worse last season.

The more troubling thing was that the Sharks’ offense dried up. Even in an abbreviated season, it’s jarring to note that there wasn’t a single Sharks player who cracked 50 points. Simply put, the organization believed that Timo Meier and others could take a big step up as Joe Pavelski left town. That belief was shaken, if not shattered.

If nothing else, the pandemic pause and a lack of play-in should at least allow this veteran Sharks squad to be refreshed. They’re going to need a lot of energy to shake off their critics and the terrible season that’s just behind them.



Joe Thornton (free agency), Aaron Dell (free agency), Melker Karlsson (free agency).

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3 Most Interesting San Jose Sharks

• Bob Boughner

Quite a few NHL teams surprisingly stuck with interim coaches, and the Sharks fall in those ranks.

Frankly, I’m not totally sure why the San Jose Sharks stuck with Bob Boughner. While it became that much clearer that Boughner wasn’t the sole cause of the Panthers’ problems after they struggled in the same way without him, it’s hard to see him as a positive difference-maker.

No, he didn’t get a huge chance as interim Sharks head coach. They were already injured and hopeless.

It would make more sense to stick with a “calming presence”-type choice if you were rebuilding. Unfortunately for the San Jose Sharks, they’re probably stuck with the messes they’ve made — at least for now. With that in mind, wouldn’t you want to roll the dice on a more proven coach in hopes they can pull off a miracle or two? At face value, it seems like this would be a more sensible job for, say, Bruce Boudreau or Gerard Gallant.

That said, Boughner really didn’t get much of a chance in 2019-20. Maybe this will be a year of redemption for Boughner and the San Jose Sharks?

• Devan Dubnyk

Despite all of the quibbles mentioned above, the Sharks bringing back Bob Boughner was reasonable enough. The real head-scratcher involved the Sharks believing that Devan Dubnyk could solve their scary problems in net.

Frankly, it’s tough to overstate just how disastrous Dubnyk’s 2019-20 season was. Even the simple stats are ugly; Dubnyk went 12-15-2 with a hideous .890 save percentage.

Context only makes those numbers look worse. The Wild have quietly grown into one of the staunchest defensive teams in the NHL. So, rather than Dubnyk being able to blame porous defense, he instead stagnated in a nurturing cocoon. Imagine that same wobbly goalie trying to keep his head above water behind a turnstile Sharks defense?

Maybe the logic revolves around pretending the 2019-20 season never happened. That certainly would be comforting for Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks.

If you throw out the utter collapse of last season, Dubnyk ranked between steady (.913 save percentage in 2018-19) to stellar in Minnesota (.918 save percentage or better from 2014-15 to 2017-18).

Goalies are strange beasts, so for all we know, Dubnyk – Martin Jones could stun us all and become one of the best duos of 2020-21. The smart money is on this situation being far less appetizing for the San Jose Sharks, though.

• Erik Karlsson

Here’s an opinion: Erik Karlsson takes a little too much blame for the Sharks’ struggles.

Here’s another opinion: his $11.5 million cap hit (through 2026-27) remains utterly terrifying. Again, he’s not the only problem contract on that Sharks defense (Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s up there, and Brent Burns has his issues, including somehow already being 35 [!]). Still, when you get paid the biggest bucks, you absorb the largest chunks of criticism when your team fails.

Even after losing a few steps, Karlsson remains captivating to watch. His cerebral style and skill may even make you stop scrolling on your phone. And, yes, his occasional misadventures in his own end add to the fun at times, too. (As long as you’re not a Sharks fan.)

Beyond all of the storylines, Karlsson and his fellow Sharks veterans could also be intriguing because they should come into 2020-21 as rested as possible. COVID and other factors could derail that, of course, but it’s possible they might be revitalized. (If memory serves, Mike Modano and Teemu Selanne seemed sharper after the abomination of the full-season lockout let them take a breath.)

Best-Case Scenario

It’s not that difficult to envision a bounce-back season for these Sharks. As stated, those aging players didn’t deal with a grueling postseason. Players like Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl may enjoy better luck (Hertl, for one, hopes to be healthier). And, for all we know, Jones + Dubnyk could surprise us and provide capable goaltending. The dream for the Sharks is that they erase the memory of 2019-20 by coming back strong this season.

Worst-Case Scenario

The scary truth is that 2019-20 might just be a taste of what’s to come for a team that went all-in one-too-many times. There really isn’t an overwhelming reason to believe that the Sharks’ defense will just correct itself. Dubnyk + Jones could easily repeat abysmal performances, leaving the Sharks with a fairly expensive duo of below-average goalies. Hey, at least if things really fall apart again, they won’t be giving the Senators their first-round pick this time.

Pointsbet – San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup odds

Sharks +5000 (PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.)

James O’Brien is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.

    Report: Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed jerseys

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    CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before Sunday’s Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country.

    The decision was made by the NHL organization following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the move.

    The Blackhawks have worn Pride warmup jerseys previously and donned special warmup jerseys on some other themed nights this season. There had been ongoing conversations about a Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who talked to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a Moscow native, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country.

    The decision by the Blackhawks comes after San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.

    While Chicago will go without Pride warmup jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during an intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus also is slated to perform. There also are plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.

    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.