Erik Karlsson made a lot of his critics laugh this morning when he declared that he was still one of the best players in the world.
Just check out the ratio below:
Erik Karlsson: "I still think I'm one of the best players in the world."
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 16, 2021
It was no doubt true during the 2018-19 season – when he enjoyed 28 points in 21 December-January games – but that seems forever ago.
All that said – and it was just one contest – but I liked most of his work in the San Jose Sharks’ 4-3 victory over Winnipeg.
His skating pop was evident throughout the night – for example, this swashbuckling solo from one end to another.
What I liked in particular was Karlsson (65) beating all the Jets, Josh Morrissey (44) in particular, to the loose puck after the dump-in, and getting it over to Lane Pederson (18). This possession doesn’t lead to any actual offense, but its promise springs entirely from Karlsson’s feet and hunger.
Karlsson wasn’t just creating potential offense last night either.
JASPER WEATHERBY'S FIRST NHL GOAL TIES IT UP 😤 pic.twitter.com/ZiCXmslvF1
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) October 17, 2021
First off, check out Kevin Labanc’s (62) entry on the power play: He shakes and bakes Adam Lowry (17) and passes it through Andrew Copp (9) to Karlsson. Great play. Then Karlsson holds, gets all Jets eyes on him – most importantly, the gaze of Dylan DeMelo (2) – and then hands it off to Jasper Weatherby (26) when the PK pressure comes. Karlsson’s patience buys Weatherby a little bit more time to fire it home, as DeMelo was so focused on EK65.
Karlsson also deserved an assist on the game-winning Rudolfs Balcers (92) goal:
Granted, it’s Balcers who deserves most of the praise here – that was an incredible sidestep of Brenden Dillon (5) – but it’s Karlsson’s patient, crafty pass through Mark Scheifele that springs Balcers and Timo Meier (28) for the entry.
His partner Jake Middleton loved Karlsson’s performance: “That guy is one of the best players in the world. Tough to get nervous with him. Makes my job easy. If I just give it to him, things go well most of the time.”
It wasn’t all roses for Karlsson last night: He was responsible for a first period two-on-one against after a neutral zone turnover and he was also one part of the miscommunication with Adin Hill that led to the Copp short-handed goal.
But I’m not going to kill him for an honest attempt to create offense (the two-on-one) or for a miscommunication. By and large, Karlsson created consistent offense and played responsible defense, even logging a regular penalty-killing shift.
This is the one defensive play that I’m going to criticize him for:
This is matador defense, it’s too easy for Pierre-Luc Dubois (80) to gain the middle of the ice. Hill saves Karlsson’s butt here. That will happen from time to time to anybody, but this kind of escort D was a too regular occurrence from Karlsson last season.
But again, it was more good and great from Karlsson last night than bad. Of course, he played good and great games last year – the question is, can he be consistently great once again?
He obviously thinks so: It’s time for him to put up or shut up.
Timo Time, Finally?
Like Erik Karlsson, there’s no question that Timo Meier is still loaded with talent. It’s just been a matter of seeing it consistently.
If last night was any indication, the San Jose Sharks have a lot to look forward to from the still-young winger this year.
While Meier didn’t score, he played a direct and engaged game all night, accentuating all his strengths.
SPORTLOGiQ paints the picture: Meier led all skaters in Slot Shots with six (no other player had more than two), and he led the San Jose Sharks in both Controlled Entries (6) and Controlled Exits (11). He also racked up eight shots (his career-high was nine on February 27, 2018 versus Edmonton) and 13 shot attempts (tied for a career-high).
He was fast and powerful and took pucks to the net, a true offensive engine for the Sharks. For my money, he was San Jose’s best individual player last night.
“I liked Timo’s game a lot. I thought Cooch’s line was our best line consistently all night,” Bob Boughner said. “Timo made great plays. But I loved the way he played away from the puck too. He was focused on details, he was physical, and he’s another guy that was hard to play against. All through training camp, he’s made a real conscious effort to be detailed even when we don’t have the puck.”
Doug Wilson has said it a million times: The San Jose Sharks’ best players have to be their best players for the team to succeed. For the most part last night, they were.
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