At the quarter mark of the season, it’s going to be a far different-looking San Jose Sharks defense tonight. And it’s not good news.
Erik Karlsson (lower-body injury) and Radim Simek (upper-body injury) will not play against the Anaheim Ducks – both were hurt on Saturday – meaning that Fredrik Claesson will make his Sharks debut and Nicolas Meloche will draw into his second-ever NHL contest.
Bob Boughner clued us in on when Karlsson and Simek might be back. He also talked about why he didn’t like his team’s response to Jonathan Marchessault’s consecutive runs at Simek.
Stefan Noesen, who hasn’t played since Jan. 28, talked about what he might add to a San Jose Sharks’ line-up that failed to stand up for Simek. And Claesson told us how Karlsson helped get him to San Jose.
We also dive into what’s going wrong on Sharks PK.
San Jose Sharks (5-7-1)
Projected lines for tonight's #SJSharks.
Claesson makes his debut. Simek and EK65 out.
The return of John Leonard!
— Locked on LEONARD SZN (@LockedOnSharks) February 15, 2021
Anaheim Ducks (6-6-3)
(This is the line-up that Anaheim rolled with in their last game, a 1-0 victory over Vegas. We’ll see if they stick with this group.)
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) February 12, 2021
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, Fox Sports West, or NHL.tv.
Well, I guess the San Jose Sharks-Vegas Golden Knights rivalry isn’t dead yet.
Bob Boughner reviewed Jonathan Marchessault’s back-to-back hits on Radim Simek on Saturday: “The initial hit, you can argue was a little bit high.
“It looked like Marchessault came in, keying on Simmer [because of the Reilly Smith collison]. My issue, more, is the second time around, when Simmer was already stung. He came in and added insult to injury.
“That’s on us. It looked to me like someone taking a shot at one of our players. I didn’t like our response. That’s something we’re addressing. We need to be a tight team, both on and off the ice, and that’s an example of being able to get in there, first home game, establish some identity.
“I understand the game is tight. But you need a response. Somewhere else in the game? You can’t let other teams take liberties.”
I wrote my initial thoughts in my Game Notes: “Simek 100 percent interferes with Smith vying for puck, but then Marchessault gets in two shots: One maybe OK though there is apparent head contact somewhere, Simek is hurt. But then, Marchessault gets away with a clear cross-check to already-hurt Simek.”
Regarding Simek on Smith, I still think it’s clear interference, but it’s also likely that Simek is stronger and/or Smith was off-balance on a 50-50 race to the puck. Looked bad though, so I understand Marchessault flying to his teammate’s defense. While I don’t think the Marchessault cross-check is necessarily suspendable, it’s easily the most serious offense here. Giving Simek a two and Marchessault a double-minor might have been fair, but nothing was called.
I think it’s very possible that the Sharks on the ice – Tomas Hertl, Rudolfs Balcers, Timo Meier, and Karlsson – missed the cross-check at first glance. Hertl is good friends with Simek, so it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t come to his countryman’s defense. Post-game, Logan Couture and Brent Burns suggested that the play was clean, based on talking to the refs, or they didn’t see it.
Anyway, whatever the truth, this, coupled with Alex Tuch’s comments after Evander Kane and Smith got into it, throws gasoline on the fire that some might have thought had died. It had been 418 days since the rivals had last played each other.
Alex Tuch on Evander Kane starting a scrum with Reilly Smith
"Jumping a guy like Smitty… I think Evander's got him by a few pounds for sure. I know he's going to have to keep his head up every game we play. The next 7 games we play Evander better be looking over his shoulder."
— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) February 13, 2021
The Sharks’ next game with the Golden Knights is Feb. 25 at SAP Center. Expect fireworks.
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 15, 2021
Speaking of Simek, Boughner hopes his gritty defenseman will be back in time for the re-match with Vegas: “Simmer, outside chance against St. Louis. If not, hopefully back in the line-up when we get home.”
Good news, Boughner believes that Erik Karlsson is closer to playing than Simek.
Stefan Noesen didn’t touch overtly on what happened to Simek – he wasn’t in the line-up, after all – but his comments suggested that he wouldn’t have let such an incident slide. He also addressed other elements that he hoped toad tonight: “It’s just the way that line-ups have been drawn up, they wanted a little bit more speed and skill. I’m going to do my best to come back in and provide that grittiness I think we’re lacking right now.
“We’re not holding onto pucks down low. We’re doing too many hope plays right now.”
Meanwhile, Fredrik Claesson, who played in Ottawa with Karlsson from 2015-18, credited his former partner with getting him to San Jose. The UFA’s signing was announced on Jan. 10: “I think [Karlsson] helped me out a little bit too, when they were asking about me. I appreciate that.”
Per Claesson, he offers a no-frills game: “Mostly my game is stay-at-home defenseman. Simple passes. Physical. Love to play on the PK too.”
SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game Stat of the Night
Before Feb. 11 in Los Angeles, the San Jose Sharks had the sixth-best penalty kill in the NHL. After back-to-back games giving up three power play goals each, they’ve fallen to 22nd in the league.
Comparing SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game reports before Feb. 11 and now, here are some problem areas that San Jose must clean up.
- They’ve got to protect the slot better: The Sharks have fallen from 17th in the NHL in Short-Handed Slot Shot Attempts From the Slot (before Feb. 11) to 25th.
- They’ve got to win faceoffs: San Jose has fallen from 12th in the league in SH Defensive Zone Faceoffs Win % to 22nd. Over the last two games, they’ve lost 11 of their last 15 SH draws.
- They’ve got to take pucks away: A hallmark of the Sharks is an aggressive in-zone PK that forces turnovers. San Jose has fallen from 7th in the NHL in SH DZ True Takeaway % to 14th.
Per SPORTLOGiQ, this is the definition of True Takeaway %: “It’s how often a team takes the puck from their opponent relative to how often their opponent has the puck on their stick. So, if the opponent possesses the puck 10 times in the OZ and San Jose takes it from them once, the Sharks would have a takeaway rate of 10%.”
Here’s a little more about what the Sharks are doing right when their PK is on the ball:
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.