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San Jose Sharks

Best, Worst of Sharks in Devastating Loss

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The San Jose Sharks keep finding ways to rock bottom.

Up 3-1 on the equally-lowly Philadelphia Flyers early in the third period, San Jose looked to be cruising to a victory. But then, Travis Konecny tied the game with 2:05 left and Tony DeAngelo won it 1:10 into overtime.

In a lot of ways, this game showcased the best and the worst of the Sharks, such as…

Erik Karlsson

Another day, another Karlsson achievement.

Karlsson had a primary assist on Tomas Hertl’s game-opening goal against the Flyers, then added a secondary assist on the Kevin Labanc third period strike. That second point gave Karlsson 50 points in 37 games, the fastest, by far, that he’s reached the mark in his career.

His previous fastest was 50 points in 48 games in 2015-16.

This is when he’s hit 50 points in a season throughout his career: Game 61 in 2017-18, Game 57 in 2016-17, Game 48 in 2015-16, Game 63 in 2014-15, Game 53 in 2013-14, and Game 57 in 2011-12.

But It Doesn’t Matter

I don’t even bother asking Karlsson about his achievements, not as much at least. He doesn’t really want to talk about his individual achievements, usually, and especially not after a loss. If we ask, he’s replied, on multiple occasions, with some variation of I’ll enjoy it when I’m 50 and retired.

This isn’t a criticism of Karlsson, by the way.

Another way to underscore what I’m saying: Karlsson has registered four points in a game three times this season. If your best player scores four points, that should be a formula for success, right?

Not when you’re the 2022-23 San Jose Sharks. Somehow, they’ve managed to go 1-1-1 in games (Nov. 1 vs. Anaheim, Nov. 17 vs. Detroit, Dec. 22 vs. Minnesota) where Karlsson has scored four points.

By the way, before this season, Karlsson has scored four points five times in his career – he’s never scored more in a game – and his teams have gone 4-1 in those contests.

Now Karlsson is just one part of the whole – if the Sharks are losing these games, he’s making mistakes in them too, like his OT turnover that led to the Tony DeAngelo game-winner – but when you’re producing like he is the good is usually outweighing the bad.

Not so with most of the rest of his team.

Timo Time

Meier isn’t just a scorer, he’s strong in other areas. He’s an underrated playmaker:

He’s a bull down low.

I spoke with an NHL scout, who, when comparing Meier to the much-smaller Alex DeBrincat – the Chicago Blackhawks’ trade of pending RFA DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators over the summer is likely the model for what the Sharks could seek in a trade – said that he believes that Meier’s blend of strength, speed, and physicality will play particularly well in the playoffs.

But…

Timo Time Not Winning Time?

I didn’t like this play, and another NHL scout agreed with me.

With a little more than two minutes to go, Sharks nursing a 3-2 lead, Meier takes an unlikely shot at the empty net.

On the ensuing DZ faceoff, Scott Laughton tied the game.

Quinn countered, “You don’t want to take that opportunity out of someone’s hands, especially someone like him. So if he feels like he can get it done, he gets it done. Especially with that much time left.”

But that’s not winning hockey, in my opinion. If Meier gets dealt to a contender, he’s not likely to have the same license to force offense.

Speaking of winning hockey…

Winning Hockey

The Sharks, of course, are capable of playing winning hockey. Here’s 200 feet of it:

For me, three plays stood out in each zone: Mario Ferraro (38) identifies James van Riemsdyk (25) in the defensive zone corner as vulnerable, and quicker feet than most, closes and kills the play – his partner Scott Harrington (4) turns and protects the puck from the incoming Morgan Frost (48), and advances it. Those are the kind of little plays that keep you in the line-up.

Kevin Labanc (62), gaining the red line, dumps it, but most importantly, dumps it in with touch, in a place where Tomas Hertl (48) can beat Rasmus Ristolainen (55) to it. That’s so critical, and massively underrated.

Finally, Karlsson (65) does what Karlsson does best from the offensive zone corner, putting the puck in the one place that Hertl can one-time it.

Losing Hockey

But all the good hockey can get undone by one mistake.

Hertl, to his credit, raised his hand: “I should be on that guy.”

With forwards Kevin Labanc (62) and Matt Nieto (83) guarding the points, it is on Hertl to identify Owen Tippett (74) looking for a soft spot in the zone coverage.

“More consistency,” head coach David Quinn offered, when asked what he wants more of the San Jose Sharks in the new calendar year. “And in situations like tonight just find ways to win.”

Also, could Kaapo Kahkonen have done a better job here?

Good Goalie

Both James Reimer and Kahkonen have played consistently good hockey for the San Jose Sharks – last year. This season, they’ve combined for the lionshare of a league-worst .880 Save %, despite the Sharks ranking 17th in the NHL, per SPORTLOGiQ, in Quality Chances Against.

But Kahkonen was terrific in the opening frame against the Flyers, providing the kind of netminding that teams good and bad need, erasing mistakes, like this one off a Logan Couture (39) turnover:

Bad Goalie

“He played very well,” Quinn said of his starter.

I thought, and an NHL scout agreed, that Kahkonen’s positioning and head could’ve been better on the Tippett goal – but the scout also stressed that the Flyer shouldn’t have been open in the first place.

But that’s the way with the Sharks this year, right? No matter how you cut it, not enough stops, in the D-zone or between the pipes.

San Jose is now NHL-worst with a .500 Points % and in one-goal games.

Six of the seven teams in the bottom part of the league in the category – the Sharks, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers, Arizona Coyotes, and Chicago Blackhawks – currently have VIP tickets for the 2023 Draft Lottery.

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