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Quick Thoughts: Eklund, Karlsson Show Their Best

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“We’ve scored one goal in the last two games,” Bob Boughner acknowledged after tonight’s 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. “So the margin for error is almost nil.”

This shouldn’t happen to a team with “almost nil” margin for error:

How do you lose a six-time 20-goal scorer like Mike Hoffman?

“It was a bit of a double-up situation there on that delay. [Brent Burns and Lane Pederson] went to the same guy,” Boughner offered. “Everybody else collapsed, but Hoffman got behind us.”

Of course, it’s going to happen over the course of a 60-minute game – there’s no such thing as a perfect game in hockey.

But of all the goals that the San Jose Sharks gave up to Montreal tonight, this felt the most like bad hockey. The other goals were an Alexander Romanov point shot through traffic and off a faceoff, a Brendan Gallagher power play goal off a Josh Anderson shot-pass that was going way wide, and an empty netter.

Things like that happen – the Hoffman goal shouldn’t.

Signs of Secondary Scoring?

The San Jose Sharks, however, should be encouraged by how much 5-on-5 offense another trio other than the Logan Couture line generated for them tonight.

I outlined earlier today how dominant the Couture line has been this season:

More Questions That Could Make or Break the Sharks’ Season

Tomas Hertl, Rudolfs Balcers, and William Eklund impressed Boughner tonight:

Case in point, per Natural Stat Trick, Balcers enjoyed an on-ice 12-2 Shots, a 13-2 Scoring Chances, and a 5-1 High-Danger edge at 5-on-5. Now that’s tilting the ice. Granted, the Sharks were behind and chasing the game – conditions conducive to score effects and more offense – but it’s a good sign that San Jose could prove to be more than a one-line team soon.

This was the norm tonight, Eklund setting up his teammates in dangerous scoring areas:

The San Jose Sharks rookie also led all skaters, per SPORTLOGiQ, with four Slot Shots on Net – so he wasn’t just a pass-first guy tonight.

Karlsson’s Best?

The Erik Karlsson “Is he or isn’t he back?” narrative must be draining for San Jose Sharks fans.

So I’m not going to make a big deal about tonight – I do think this performance is the best he’s looked this season – but we saw this wax-and-wane show last year too.

But I want to give credit where credit is due because I’ve been hard on Karlsson over the last couple weeks. Here are some standout EK65 stats tonight:

• Karlsson (23:35) played more than Burns (23:14) tonight. That, of course, hasn’t been the norm, as Burns has become the unquestioned No. 1 defenseman on the San Jose Sharks over the last year – Burns has averaged almost three more minutes a night than Karlsson since the beginning of last season. This is the first time this year that Karlsson has played more than Burns, a sign of how much the coaches liked his game tonight.

• Karlsson piled up a game-leading 12 shot attempts tonight, his first foray into double digits in this category this year. It’s a mark of how active he was on offense, and by extension, how nimble he looked getting to pucks. For further context, Karlsson reached double-digit shot attempts in a game just twice last year and just once in 2019-20. In 2018-19, he achieved this feat 12 times. In 2017-18, 12 times also.

• Per SPORTLOGiQ, Karlsson led all skaters with 1:01 Offensive Zone Possession Time in All Situations – closest to Karlsson was Jonathan Drouin at 00:47. I wrote this last year, but Karlsson at his best is holding the puck, confident in his abilities to elude pressure. That was the case tonight.

• Karlsson was just as good exiting the zone – he led all skaters with 10 Controlled Exits. In his heyday, Karlsson was invaluable as a one-man breakout to relieve pressure, and this hearkened back to those days.

Anyway, I don’t want to make too big a deal of it – it’s just one game. Karlsson has teased us plenty with a turn-back-the-clock game here and there over the last two years. It’s on him to emulate a Timo Meier and put together a string of consecutive great performances if he wants to reclaim his mantle as the Sharks’ top defenseman and one of the best players in the world.

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zachg

Good stuff, Sheng. Burns looked absolutely terrible last night, unfortunately. He has those games from time to time.

timorous me

Worrying, too, in that they always feel like they come in bunches. But I’d argue that we’re already a few games into that bunch, so maybe with a couple days off after Saturday he and Ferraro will be able to reset and get back on the same page. Sometimes I wonder if Ferraro would actually be better paired with Karlsson, and Burns with a more stay-home guy (Ferraro seems to be trying to be more dynamic this year), but I don’t think Bob wants to give Karlsson the bigger minutes that change would entail.

dilligaff4444

big part of the issue you touched on already – forecheck .. cooch is consistent , hertl is not , meir has not been historically.( but meir is much better this season so far), balcers is decent at this but liability in other areas… i dont think we have anyone else …maybe cogs but i have not seen enough yet [hate to say it , but Kane is good at this]. without forecheck a dump and chase doesnt work and puts most pressure on skating it OUT AND IN which for us means mostly ek65 . we need someone on… Read more »

Dan

What are Hertl’s responsiblities as a center in Boughner’s forechecking approach? Back when Hertl was a winger in the 2016 cup run, he was the most formidable forechecker by far. But wingers, in most systems, are freed up to pound the corners & d for the puck. I always thought SJ’s approach should have been to obtain another top 6 center and keep Hertl at wing as he was so noticeably disruptive.

timorous me

This is the kind of game that makes me feel like the Sharks should keep Eklund around for the year. He keeps showing that he’s capable of learning on the fly, be it during the summer to the preseason to now in-season, and doing some things differently to be a better player at this level. That’s all really impressive. I am kind of concerned, though, about the future implications of keeping him and starting his ELC this year–both in terms of how soon he’d get to free agency and how soon he’d be due for a big raise that, considering… Read more »

dilligaff4444

delaying is advantageous …. all future bigger contracts need to get pushed back AT LEAST 3 years from now due to the martin jones buyout . doug needs to “flatten the curve” on all contracts since we have this “bump” in the curve through 26/27. eklunds biggest issue atm is size… he is great at what plays he can make , but he can only participate in 50% of plays bigger nhlers can participate in, because he gets muscled off easily , so he has allot less opportunity… i mean c’mon he was pushed around by gallagher (who is listed… Read more »

[…] Despite San Jose losing 4-0 to Montreal on Thursday, William Eklund and Erik Karlsson played well. But the team as a whole has scored one goal over their last two games after a rather strong start to their season. (San Jose Hockey Now) […]

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