Your best offensive players don’t need to score to make an impact.
Case in point, Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier, who had donuts on the scoresheet, but came up large for the San Jose Sharks in their 2-1 OT victory over the East-leading Carolina Hurricanes on Monday.
What was striking about Karlsson’s effort was the particular passion that he exhibited.
EK65 and the fans are furious the refs didn't call a penalty pic.twitter.com/85c3EP9Ue2
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) November 23, 2021
Swinging his stick against the glass is what catches the eye, but every bit as noteworthy is the dogged Karlsson (65) effort to get the puck through the Tony DeAngelo (77) check.
“I think Erik’s had a great season so far. I think he’s coming to play. He’s playing with urgency,” Bob Boughner said. “He made a couple of great plays to handle pressure.”
Here’s an example of Karlsson’s cool under pressure:
The puck squirts out to Karlsson screaming down the slot – everybody is thinking shot, the Swede has his stick cocked for the slapper – and the veteran blueliner, playing in his 800th NHL game, instead rips a shot-pass that Timo Meier (28) just misses an empty net on.
Seconds later, Mario Ferraro (38) steps up on Andrei Svechnikov (37) at the red line, and Karlsson once again slows the play down. Instead of quickly moving the puck, he waits to draw the eyes of both Jesper Fast (71) and Svechnikov, opening up the weak side of the neutral zone for a reloaded Meier’s speed. Fast, especially, was slow to react to the pass because he appeared to be mesmerized by his countryman.
Meier bobbles the pass, but in an illustration of his own much-improved effort this season, he makes an extra effort to move the puck past Brett Pesce (22). Rudolfs Balcers (92) swoops in for a quality chance.
It’s a particular Karlsson gift – to make the opposition think one way, then go the other – and it was on full display tonight.
Yes, Karlsson is paid to produce – it’s his third-straight pointless night – but no doubt, San Jose put an excellent Carolina squad on notice with this high-octane offensive momentum.
Someone else who surely noticed Karlsson’s extra level tonight?
Team Sweden Olympic head coach Johan Garpenlov, attending his second consecutive San Jose Sharks game.
“I love representing my country. It’s been a while now, unfortunately,” Karlsson acknowledged, of how important it is for him to be selected for the 2022 Winter Olympics. “If that ends up happening, it’s something that as a kid growing up, that’s why we played, at least in Sweden. For every Swede, I think that’s the ultimate honor, to represent the country.”
One San Jose Sharks skater who’s already punched his ticket to Beijing? Timo Meier, who was selected by Team Switzerland in October.
“He was the best player for San Jose today,” an NHL scout told me.
That’s been a common refrain about Meier this season.
Besides the aforementioned effort on the Karlsson set-up, Meier made one of the best defensive defensemen in the league look real bad:
That’s Jaccob Slavin (74) that the Swiss winger catches flat-footed.
Per Natural Stat Trick, Meier was on the ice for 15 Scoring Chances For and just one Scoring Chance Against at 5-on-5.
With star efforts like these guiding the way and steadfast team defense – SPORTLOGiQ had San Jose enjoying an 8-5 Slot Shots on Net advantage in All Situations, punctuated by a 4-0 effort in the third – it’s no wonder that the Sharks upset this Eastern powerhouse.
“They are the better team, if you look at the standings, but end of the day, just shows that we can play against any team,” Karlsson pointed out. “This is the effort that we have to bring, the details we have to stick with, even if it doesn’t always go our way.”
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