SAN JOSE — Six weeks can appear to be an eternity in NHL time.
When the Sharks final met up with the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 1, the crew misplaced its fifth recreation in six tries, elevating questions on its standing as a Stanley Cup contender and whether or not the group made the best transfer by buying and selling for Erik Karlsson on the eve of coaching camp.
Now, with the Senators on the town for Saturday’s rematch at SAP Heart, the Sharks are reborn. The squad is 14-3-2 because the debacle in Canada’s capitol. The group is elevating eyebrows throughout the NHL with wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vegas Golden Knights during the last week, and Karlsson is rolling, having collected 26 factors in his final 17 video games.
It ought to be an thrilling stretch run in Silicon Valley.
In fact, the Sharks latest success is elevating quite a lot of questions, which suggests it’s time to open up the mailbag. With out additional ado, I’ll flip the keys over to you. Buckle up:
From @BleedingTeel: Does the Sharks success with out Justin Braun & Marc-Edouard Vlasic within the lineup make both probably expendable heading into the commerce deadline? Given the upcoming negotiations with Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier, transferring both or each contracts presents an enormous profit to Crew Teal.
The Sharks know they’re going to wish eight defensemen down the stretch and into the playoffs, so it’s unlikely they’re going to commerce both blue liner earlier than the deadline. They want insurance coverage towards harm. The very last thing they need is to see a key defenseman go down late within the yr, scaling down their depth after they had the our bodies to soak up a loss.
Although Doug Wilson is leaving the door open to the potential of a deadline deal, these are the kind of gamers which are extra more likely to get moved on the NHL draft if the Sharks wished to discover that route.
As an alternative of creating a commerce, the Sharks usually tend to change the way in which they deploy Vlasic and Braun within the second half. Braun is predicted to swimsuit up Saturday towards the Senators. Vlasic remains to be thought-about “day-to-day.”
The timing of Vlasic’s harm labored out completely for DeBoer. When Vlasic returns to the lineup, the Sharks can ease him again into the combination, giving him a lowered workload in a backside pairing position. Consequently, they will proceed to deploy Karlsson and Brenden Dillon towards their opponents’ high strains, taking accountability away from Vlasic, who’s struggled this season with a team-worst minus-13 ranking, with out insulting him.
At this level, it’s implausible to anticipate Vlasic and Braun to renew their shutdown duties when the Sharks have performed their best-defensive hockey of the season with out them. That is first time all season that the Sharks have surrendered two or fewer targets in 4 straight video games and that features wins over the Lightning and the Knights.
Furthermore, if the Sharks wish to signal Karlsson to a contract extension, they may wish to let him maintain onto the keys down the stretch, which suggests much less ice for Vlasic and Braun. Karlsson averaged greater than 26 minutes an evening in every of his final 5 seasons with the Senators, together with a whopping 28:08 throughout Ottawa’s run to Recreation 7 of the Jap Convention Closing in 2017.
Karlsson needs to log massive minutes. He can deal with the work load. The Sharks are a greater crew at any time when he’s on the ice.
Vlasic and Braun’s accidents gave DeBoer the chance to lean on Karlsson extra closely. There’s no cause to alter that when everybody’s wholesome.
From @the_rocket08: of the Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights, which ought to Sharks followers root for them NOT to satisfy within the postseason?
This questions gives a very good observe as much as the final level. The Sharks have to safe first place within the Pacific Division this season, one more reason why they need to be using Karlsson down the stretch.
Usually, seeding is irrelevant within the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bear in mind, the Sharks reached the ultimate because the third seed within the Pacific Division in 2016, opening up the playoffs on the highway in Los Angeles. It didn’t matter by the point they reached the ultimate.
However issues are completely different this season. Proper now, I’m counting 5 reputable contenders within the Western Convention: the Sharks, Knights, Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators. Past these groups, the extent of competitors falls off a cliff with 12 factors separating the Knights from the fourth place Anaheim Geese within the Pacific Division.
That mentioned, selecting between the Flames and Knights is a pick-your-poison situation. The actual key right here is avoiding a state of affairs the place you should undergo each groups to succeed in the Western Convention Closing. The playoffs are a take a look at of attrition and it’s going to be onerous to beat the Jets or Predators if getting by way of the Pacific Division requires two six or seven-game collection.
However because you requested the query, I’ll choose the Flames for 2 causes: Vegas is battle examined within the playoffs and Marc-André Fleury might be guarding their internet. After seeing what Fleury did final spring, I’d favor to take my possibilities towards an unproven commodity, comparable to David Rittich, as an alternative of testing my possibilities towards a three-time Stanley Cup champ. With goaltending being the Sharks high space of concern proper now, a full collection towards Fleury appears like a frightening problem.
From @RFWill149: who do you assume is subsequent in line for a primary time name up from the San Jose Barracuda?
I don’t see a situation the place the Sharks recall one other Barracuda participant to make his NHL debut this season except the crew will get to play a meaningless recreation over the last week of the season.
The primary half is about experimenting and seeing what you may have. As I discussed above, the Sharks have to rack up as many factors as potential during the last 36 video games of the season. If the harm bug sweeps by way of city, I’d anticipate the Sharks to recall Antti Suomela or Dylan Gambrell, guys who’ve seen motion on the NHL stage.
Now, if we weren’t at this level within the season, I’d say that Francis Perron is subsequent in line for a shot with the massive membership.
Perron, who joined the group because the eighth piece within the Karlsson commerce, leads the Barracuda in scoring and Meier, his former-junior hockey teammate, believes his recreation will translate with to the NHL.
With that in thoughts, I’d anticipate to see Perron get his probability subsequent season. It appears unlikely that Kevin Labanc will return when he hits restricted free company this summer season. Perron may be capable of fill his skates as an inexpensive expert prospect within the depth of the Sharks lineup.