Joe Thornton

Karlsson’s health will dictate Sharks’ chances

9 Comments

If you are a San Jose Sharks fan the current situation might seem a little bleak.

Your team was just dominated on home ice on Sunday afternoon and is heading on the road, facing elimination in the Western Conference Final, and needing to win the next two games to continue its Stanley Cup pursuit.

The odds, it would seem, are stacked against you.

If you are looking for something to be optimistic about it should be the fact Sharks have already been in a worse position this postseason and managed to overcome it. In Round 1 they trailed the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in the series, needed to win three games in a row, and then found themselves with a three-goal deficit in the third period of Game 7 after crawling back to tie the series. Sure, they needed one of the biggest breaks in Stanley Cup playoff history to complete the comeback, but they still found a way to do it and take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself.

There is one very big difference this time around that might hold them back, and it is the health of top defender Erik Karlsson.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Karlsson is one of the many Sharks players that exited Sunday’s game due to injury, logging just 10 minutes of ice-time in the team’s 5-0 loss as he continues to deal with a nagging groin injury that has limited him all season. Head coach Peter DeBoer refused to offer any update on his status (as well as the status of injured forwards Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski) or if he would travel with the team.

His health is going to be a major determining factor in what happens for the Sharks over the next two games.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators just before the start of the 2018-19 season with the hope that he would be the missing piece on a Stanley Cup contender. When he is healthy and at his best, he is one of the best players in the world and on an elite tier of superstars. He is a difference-maker, and when the Sharks have had him at anything close to full health this season he has played like it.

Putting him on a defense that already has Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic gives the Sharks one of the best defensive groups in the league.

When the Sharks overcame their Round 1 deficit against the Golden Knights, Karlsson was a huge factor in that result.

He played more than 92 minutes (more than 40 percent of the total ice-time in those games), had four assists (tops on the team), and was on the ice for nine of the 12 goals the Sharks scored in their Games 5, 6, and 7 wins. Only two other players on the team (Hertl and Logan Couture) were on the ice for more than six goals in those three games. He had at least two points in every game the Sharks won in that Round 1 series. He was at the center of everything and one of the biggest reasons they came back to win.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, the groin injury has resurfaced and he has been obviously limited over the past few games. Not only in terms of his lack of ice time and early exit in Game 5 (as well as the extended stretch in Game 4 where he did not see the ice), but just in watching him play. He is clearly not where he — or the Sharks — want him to be from a health standpoint.

That is going to be a problem because even if he does play in Game 6, there is no guarantee that he is going to make the kind of impact we are used to seeing from him.

The Sharks have overcome the absence of key players in these playoffs, whether it was Joe Thornton‘s suspension in Round 1 or the Pavelski injury that sidelined him for all but one game in their Round 2 series against the Colorado Avalanche. But for as good and important as those players are, having to replace a player like Karlsson is an entirely different animal.

The Sharks have other forwards that can step up and impact a game if they lose a player like Pavelski, or Hertl, or Thornton.

But a No. 1 defender does so much more on the ice given the minutes they play, the number of times they touch the puck, and the way they can control the pace of the game and where it is played. Everything starts with the blue line, and you need those players on the back end that can move the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone. When he is healthy, there is nobody in the NHL that is better at that than Karlsson. It is not just his point production that makes him a superstar and a top-tier player — it is the way he can essentially be a one-man breakout coming out of the defensive zone and skate the puck out of danger when there are no passing options available.

There is nobody else stepping into his spot and doing that.

Yes, they still have a Norris Trophy winner (and a finalist for the award this season) in Brent Burns on the roster, but having Burns and Karlsson is what makes the Sharks such a fierce team to contend with.

Take one of them out of the lineup, or at least limit their ability to make an impact, and there is a major drop in how the team performs.

We have seen that over the past two games with Karlsson.

If the Sharks are going to come back in another series there may not be a bigger determining factor than Karlsson’s health and what he is able to do. It is going to require a significant turnaround from what we have seen over the past two games.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Wraparound: Can Thornton keep rolling?

Leave a comment

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

You’ve probably heard by now that Game 3 of the Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues ended in controversial fashion, so you can understand why some of the in-game stuff has been overshadowed over the last couple of days. One of those standout performances came from slumping center Joe Thornton. Can he keep it going in Game 4? (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream)

Thornton scored two goals in the game and he also added an assist on Logan Couture‘s game-tying goal late in regulation. Not bad for a guy who had just one point in his previous eight games.

“This guy’s one of the greatest players of all time,” head coach Pete DeBoer said after Game 3. “I know he wasn’t happy with his last game. And that’s the response you get from a Hall of Fame player. We wouldn’t have a chance to win without him. The character, the response, the leadership.”

The Sharks managed to get to the Western Conference Final by leaning on top players like Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns, but getting added production from their third line could help propel them to the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.

DeBoer made a subtle change to Thornton’s line heading into Game 3, as he replaced Marcus Sorensen with Melker Karlsson. The line, which was made up of Thornton, Karlsson and Kevin Labanc controlled over 60 percent of the shot attempts when they were on the ice and they created two goals. They have had 60 percent of the scoring chances when they were on the ice (all stats via Natural Stat Trick).

Getting continued production from that line may allow the Sharks to get a stranglehold on this series.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

THURSDAY’S SCOREBOARD
Bruins 4, Hurricanes 0 (Bruins win series 4-0)
The Buzzer has more on Thursday’s action

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT Conference Finals predictions

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Rask an early Conn Smythe favorite; Should all goals be reviewable?

Leave a comment
Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 16

• Following the Blues’ loss in Game 3 after a missed hand pass call, Benjamin Hochman argues that all goals and the plays leading up to them should be reviewable. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

• The reaction from the Sharks and Blues to the call was naturally different. Joe Thornton took issue with an earlier decision not to call a delay of game penalty on David Perron in the second period. (CSN Bay Area)

Tuukka Rask is looking like a Conn Smythe favorite:

• Derek Boogaard’s mother is fighting to keep the memory of her son alive. Derek passed away eight years ago due to accidental overdose of alcohol and oxycodone. (The Hockey News)

• Charles Glenn, 64, has been singing the national anthems at St. Louis Blues’ games for 19 years, including nearly eight years since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s been getting increasingly difficult and he decided back in January that this would be his last season, but thanks to the Blues’ turnaround and postseason success, he’s got to extend his final run for longer than anticipated. (ESPN)

Brad Marchand seems to have succeeded in getting in Justin Williams‘ head. (CSN Boston)

• The Bruins’ fourth line played a major role in their Game 3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. (WEEI)

• After winning the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery, would it make sense for the Rangers to prioritize pursuing Erik Karlsson over Artemi Panarin, should both of them end up as unrestricted free agents? (Blue Seat Blogs)

• The Sharks are partnering with local tattoo shops to offer free Sharks tattoos during each Western Conference road game. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

• Although his playing days are long over, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour is still dedicated to his own personal fitness to the point that Sebastian Aho thinks their bench boss can “outlift everyone in the whole league.” (USA Today)

• There are connecting threads between the underdog stories of the St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes. (Sports Illustrated)

• Islanders assistant Lane Lambert could end up as a head coach for the 2019-20 campaign. At a minimum, the Anaheim Ducks have offered him an interview. (Anaheim Calling)

• A look at 10 potential buyout candidates. (Sportsnet)

Andreas Johnsson isn’t one of the Maple Leafs’ bigger names, but he played a valuable role for the squad in 2018-19. (EP Rinkside)

• It seemed like Ralph Krueger might be done with the NHL in a coaching capacity, but talking with Sabres GM Jason Botterill and the talent on Buffalo’s roster convinced him to become their new head coach. (Buffalo News)

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

The Playoff Buzzer: Great Sharks-Blues Game 3 ends with missed OT call

12 Comments

Blues defenseman Vince Dunn was injured midway through the first period when he was struck in the mouth by the puck and he couldn’t return.

San Jose had a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes and later led by 3-1, but the Blues rallied to a 4-3 lead that they took into the third period.

The Sharks battled back to tie it with just 1:01 remaining in regulation time then Erik Karlsson scored the game-winner due to a missed call.

San Jose Sharks 5, St. Louis Blues 4 (OT) (Sharks lead 2-1)

While the game was ultimately defined by a controversial goal, this was otherwise an excellent, back-and-forth contest. The Sharks took an early 2-0 lead thanks to Erik Karlsson’s first goal of the 2019 playoffs and Joe Thornton taking advantage of a rebound. That early deficit, coupled with Vince Dunn leaving the game after being struck by the puck made it entirely possible that this could have been a blowout win for the Sharks. Instead, the Blues battled back. They scored four goals in the second period, including back-to-back markers by David Perron in the span of just 2:39 minutes to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead. The Blues came so close to carrying that lead to the finish line and almost won the contest on an empty netter that instead hit the post. With just 1:01 remaining, Logan Couture capitalized on a rebound in front of the net to tie the game. Erik Karlsson went on to score the overtime winner at 5:23, but not before Timo Meier made a hand pass that was missed by the referees.

Three Stars

1. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks. So Karlsson’s second goal was obviously marred in controversy, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had an amazing game. He still scored twice while logging an incredible 27:51 minutes. The Sharks acquired Karlsson before the start of the season in the hopes that he might be the missing piece needed to push them to a championship. He’s had to battle injury and probably is playing hurt now, but he’s still managed to be a major factor.

2. David Perron, St. Louis Blues. The second period started with a flurry of goals that left the Blues down 3-2. The game settled for a while after that until Perron got a wrister up and past Martin Jones at 16:03 of the second frame. With the contest tied, Perron blasted a shot just 2:39 minutes later to put the Blues up 4-3.

3. Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues. With Vince Dunn out from the middle of the first period onward, the rest of the Blues’ defensemen had to step up. Not only did Parayko log 29:49 minutes, but he also contributed three assists. That came after he was held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the Western Conference Final.

Highlights of the Night
Joe Thornton had a great game and both of his goals were in part thanks to him being in the right place at the right time. That’s not to suggest that they weren’t high-skill goals though. Thornton did an amazing job both creating opportunities and capitalizing on them, as you can see with his second goal of the game.

The missed call
Of course, this is the moment most will remember from the game. Erik Karlsson scored after Timo Meier made a hand pass. It was a missed call, but it couldn’t be reviewed, so that was the game. Needless to say that the Blues and their fans were understandably very upset.

That said, Blues coach Craig Berube declined to comment on the issue after the game.

Factoids

  • Logan Couture already has 14 goals in 17 games. His latest marker tied the Sharks’ franchise record for most goals in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • With Erik Karlsson’s two-goal effort, the Sharks now have three different defensemen who have had multi-goal games in the 2019 playoffs. The only other team to match that feat were the 1982-83 Boston Bruins. [StatsCentre]
  • Due to Dunn’s injury, St. Louis had three different defensemen record at least 27 minutes of ice time. They were: Jay Bouwmeester (27:51), Colton Parayko (29:49), and Alex Pietrangelo (31:57).
  • The Blues scored their most goals in a single playoff period (four) since the 2000 Conference Quarterfinals. [NHL PR]

Thursday’s Schedule

Game 3: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Missed call hands Sharks 2-1 series lead vs. Blues

28 Comments

Neither of them saw it.

All four of them, specifically.

Two referees and two linesmen missed a hand pass by Timo Meier, a puck that Gustav Nyquist then moved to Erik Karlsson, who planted it behind Jordan Binnington for the overtime winner in a 5-4 triumph, now shrouded in controversy, that put the San Jose Sharks ahead of the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in the Western Conference Final.

From the moment the light went on behind Binnington, the Blues were incensed. Binnington got right back to his feet after the puck trickled by him and immediately pleaded the case. The rest of his teammates followed his lead.

The play, however, wasn’t reviewable. The Situation Room in Toronto would be of no use. And all four in the black and white striped long-sleeves missed what appeared to be a blatant hand pass.

The goal, then, had to stand.

This is the rule, if you’re wondering:

79.1 Hand Pass – A player shall be permitted to stop or “bat” a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice officials he has directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to gain an advantage, and subsequently possession and control of the puck is obtained by a player of the offending team, either directly or deflected off any player or official.

The Sharks have been on the right side of luck a couple times now in the playoffs, most notably in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Trailing 3-0 in the third period, the Sharks were gifted a five-minute power play after Cody Eakin was thought to have cross-checked Joe Pavelski in the head, causing him to crash violently into the ice and forcing him out of the game.

You know the rest of that story. The Sharks tied the game and then won in overtime to progress to face the Blues.

Two missed calls and two critical wins for the Sharks, who regained home-ice advantage after the Blues earned a split back at SAP Center.

And credit to the Blues, who despite letting their frustrations out on the glass and the half boards, took the high road after the game.

“I have nothing to say about it,” Craig Berube said. “The team’s got to move on. We all have to move on from it. There’s nothing we can do about what happened.”

Added Alex Pietrangelo: “I guess there’s a different set of rules for two different teams. I’m sure they’ll lose some sleep tonight after looking at it.”

The Blues had a remarkable second period after the Sharks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Alex Steen‘s second of the playoffs cut the deficit in half just 1:18 into the period. Joe Thornton‘s second of the night canceled that out just 18 seconds later, but the Blues and their never-die attitude, rebounded, scoring three straight, one from Vladimir Tarasenko and then two goals from David Perron in a span of 2:39.

“We’ve got to do better there,” Berube said. “We got to close that game out, in my opinion. We should have won it 4-3.”

Colton Parayko had his hand on three of the four second-period goals, grabbing assists on them while he kept Logan Couture at bay.

That happens from time to time. Sometimes for 20 minutes. Maybe 40. Even 58:59. But 60 minutes? Godspeed to you.

And while Parayko put in a valiant effort against Couture, when the net was empty and it was 6-on-5 for the Sharks, Parayko couldn’t hold the fort anymore.

Couture’s league-leading 14th sent the game to overtime.

Game 4 goes on Friday at 8 p.m. on NBCSN

MORE: Vince Dunn done for night after being struck in mouth by puck


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck