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How to Preserve Karlsson?



Credit: AP Photo/David Becker

BERLIN – David Quinn doesn’t give up a lot – unless he’s talking about how handsome Derek Lalonde is, or isn’t.

Quinn Can’t Believe Lalonde Ranked 3rd-Most Handsome Coach in NHL

The new San Jose Sharks head coach doesn’t even appear to show lines at morning skate. Usually, coaches do that. And hey, it’s his team, more power to him. All that means is we have to watch what Quinn does in games a lot more closely.

Instead of rolling his four lines, Quinn has opted to spend more time on the power play during morning skate. As a result, we usually know who’s going to be on the power play in a game, at least.

Now it’s just preseason, and it’s possible that Quinn is just putting a little more emphasis on the power play in reaction to a compressed preseason schedule. So maybe we’ll see those ever-helpful morning skate lines soon.

Or maybe this trend will continue into the regular season?

So here’s one thing that I saw, or didn’t see, last night in the Sharks’ 3-1 victory over Eisbaren Berlin at Mercedes-Benz Arena: Not a lot of Erik Karlsson on the penalty kill.

Instead, the San Jose Sharks were very consistent in deploying Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Mario Ferraro as their top PK defensive pairing, followed by Radim Simek-Matt Benning. Karlsson only came out near the end of PKs, as the play was transitioning back to 5-on-5.

Of course, some of you might say, Erik Karlsson doesn’t play defense!

But then, there’s this stat: Since the Sharks have traded for Karlsson, their penalty killing is second-best in the NHL. And Karlsson has been no small part of that – only Brent Burns and Vlasic have played more on the PK than Karlsson among San Jose rearguards since 2018-19.

So why would you take one of your better penalty-killing defensemen off the PK?

Corey Masisak of The Athletic had a theory, and it could be a sound one, subject to testing in the regular season.

In Vlasic, Ferraro, Simek, and Benning – and probably even in Scott Harrington and Jaycob Megna – you have a wealth of potential defensive PK’ers. However, you only have one Karlsson for the power play.

So could Quinn be saving Karlsson for 5-on-5 and PP? It would be sensible: The two-time Norris Trophy is 32, not 22, and the San Jose Sharks’ hopes this season rest a lot on his inconstant health.

On the other hand, Karlsson’s usage in his two other preseason usages suggest the Sharks are going to use him in every situation, and plenty.

On Sept. 25 versus the Los Angeles Kings, Karlsson led the Sharks with 24:07 played. He spent 7:13 on the power play and 3:00 on the penalty kill. For what it’s worth, in a penalty-filled affair, he was the least-used San Jose blueliner short-handed.

On Sept. 30 at Vegas, Karlsson led the Sharks with 24:23 played. He spent 1:55 on the PP and 3:27 on the PK, leading San Jose in both categories.

Last night in Berlin, they didn’t track time on ice publicly, but Karlsson and Harrington were clearly the least-used Sharks defenders on the kill.

Quinn did say that he thinks lines in last night’s preseason finale should mostly mirror how San Jose will open the regular season against the Nashville Predators.

Will Karlsson’s penalty-killing usage follow suit? Might San Jose try to find some rest for EK65 by 86’ing his PK usage?

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