The Sharks’ second win in 11 games should probably feel better than this, but any festivities we may feel are appropriate as fans will be overshadowed by the looming cloud of the Golden Knights and the uncertain future of star forward Timo Meier.
Late in the third period, Meier took an awkward fall into the boards behind the Edmonton net facilitated by Darnell Nurse and skated off the ice straight into the San Jose dressing room, never to be seen or heard from again. While the injury initially looked like a tweaked knee, Edmonton media later speculated a left wrist problem. At this point, they likely know no more than we do, but the time to go through whatever arcane rituals you deem fit is now.
Brent Burns led the way on the score sheet for the Sharks, recording a goal and a primary assist, both directly off of Tomas Hertl’s faceoff wins in the offensive zone. What made those plays so effective was a series of mobile, layered screens in front of Oilers goaltender Anthony Stolarz, a strategy that could be well executed against Marc-Andre Fleury in a few weeks.
Leon Draisaitl was tragically stymied in his quest for 50 goals tonight by a serious team defensive effort in front of Aaron Dell and his 26 saves on 28 shots. Draisaitl will have one more chance to hit that nice, big, round number with the Oilers’ last game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday, and the Flames should look out. The giant German was seriously hungry as the game wound down, creating havoc and space all over the offensive zone and firing seven shots on goal throughout the contest.
With an assist on Marcus Sorensen’s opening goal in the first period, Joe Thornton moved past Steve Yzerman for eighth all-time in assists with 1064. Allegedly, Thornton wears the number 19 because of Yzerman’s influence on the big man’s game, so seeing his own name above the older legend’s on the leader-board has to be a surreal experience.
All eyes, however, will be on Meier’s health for the rest of tonight and tomorrow until we get some more information. If Meier is out for any significant period of time, the Sharks will be in some seriously dire straits heading into the postseason. If, on the other hand, the boys can head into the series against Vegas with Meier and Erik Karlsson back in the fold, well that’s anyone’s game.
Cross your fingers.
Hey gang, let’s think about this positively: sure, the Sharks have nothing to gain with a win over the tragically impotent Oilers, but they have nothing to lose with a loss either. Let’s all just sit back and have a friendly good time, hey?
20:00: And we’re off. Couture starts at center, facing off against the McDavid line.
19:17: Immediate Sharks power play, as Zack Kassian shows his true value to the Oilers by hooking Justin Braun behind the goal. Putting Anthony Stolarz on his heels here would be valuable, you know, scoring the first goal in the first five minutes for once.
17:57: Oilers score. Well, hard to call that unexpected. Draisaitl scores short-handed after stealing the puck from Timo Meier in the neutral zone. Tim Heed with a pretty ill-advised drop pass before the Oilers blue line which may have telegraphed Meier’s movement to the lethal German. 1-0 Edmonton.
16:37: Great shift from the Thornton line in the offensive zone to try to get momentum back after that brutal Draisaitl goal. Still, San Jose really has to address their sloppy starts.
14:55: Not Meier’s best period. The Oilers get a good chance off of a brutal Sharks turnover as Meier tries to pass to a changing player. It is still early, but the Sharks look like they may be looking too far ahead already.
13:21: Another decent chance for Sorensen and the Thornton line. They look like they might be the only trio really getting results this period.
12:40: Bailiff, strike that from the record. Pavelski gets a good short side chance on Stolie the goalie while falling down, which I’m convinced is the only way Pavelski does anything, which does not bode well for his grocery trips.
11:08: Sharks even it up! Sorensen finally makes good on the Sharks’ third line dominance. Thornton parks behind the net while the slick Swede dupes Adam Larsson in front of the net to get open. Jake Middleton showed some great pinching instincts on that shift to complement Burns’ aggression, and the rookie gets his first NHL point. Tie game!
10:45: With an assist on Sorensen’s goal, Thornton has taken eighth place all-time in assists, passing Yzerman with 1064. Next up, Mr. Fun himself, Adam Oates.
9:56: Sharks score! Burns takes the lead with a blistering snap shot from the dot right off of a Hertl faceoff win. Amazing how a man as big as Burns can bob and weave through NHL players like that. 80 points for the bearded wonder. 2-1 Sharks lead.
8:54: Aaron Dell is finally challenged again and comes up strong with a point black butterfly stop on local scapegoat Tobias Rieder.
8:02: Sharks penalty kill. Pavelski gets called for a trip after embedding his stick into Larsson’s skate. Hard to argue that one, when the stick stays in there for four full seconds.
5:49: The last 20 seconds or so of that Oilers power play was pretty scary, but the Sharks penalty kill looked strong, harrying zone entries and driving play down into the corners.
5:02: Dell stands strong against Alex Chiasson. Coming way out of the paint to challenge, and staying strong until the very late whistle is a good sign.
4:03: Evander Kane just stepped on the puck and fell down. If that sounds funny, ask Carey Price how funny it is. Nah, I’m just kidding, it’s pretty funny.
3:22: Dell read that play so well. That’s the kind of foresight that’s required from a keeper on an aggressive team like the Sharks. Joseph Gambardella had nothing to shoot at when he had the opportunity to fire because Dell knew exactly where he was going to release.
1:10: And all four lines have finally showed up to the game. Hertl gets a great opportunity in front of the net thanks to Kane’s and Gustav Nyquist’s pressure.
:29.8: Stolarz stones Pavelski with a great stop inside the crease. Another goal to close the period would be money.
END FIRST: Sharks 2, Oilers 1
After yet another sloppy start, the Sharks seemed to find their footing as the period went on. The Sharks are controlling the shot attempt battle at 5-on-5 to the tune of a 62.07 percent share, and seem to be having very little trouble getting inside in the offensive zone to get high danger chances on Stolarz. As usual, though, keeping momentum up is the key here, and keeping their heads on straight whenever McDavid or Draisaitl are any where near the ice surface. Dell has looked pretty strong, coming out to challenge shooters early and often, but it’s only a matter of time before the Oilers start focusing more on lateral movement before shots to take advantage of his aggression. It’s on the Sharks skaters to limit those options. Keep up the good work, fellas.
20:00: Couture starts us off with a faceoff win from McDavid. This kid’s clearly not that great after all! It’s all been a sham!
17:54: Braun just sent Toby Rieder up into the concourse with that hit. There’s still a primal glee we get from a big, clean body hit. Should we feel guilt about that glee? Probably, but it won’t change anything.
16:38: Oilers score. Draisaitl learned from his hesitance a minute or so ago and blasts a Matt Benning pass past Dell. Poor Tim Heed was victimized by McDavid at the blue line for the zone entry before the pass off to Benning, who bounced it to Draisaitl. The Oilers used that lateral movement we talked about earlier to catch Dell moving. 2-2 tie game.
Probably the right call to confirm the call on the ice. McDavid is allowed to lead the puck into the zone if he still has control of it, which he definitely did. There seems to have been a trend lately of really quick challenges from this coaching staff, and it’s impossible to tell if it’s the coaches themselves being overly eager, or bad advice from video coaches, because that zone entry seemed pretty clear. Sharks on the penalty kill again.
14:17: Sharks kill off the penalty, and immediately get some great chances on Stolarz from Barclay Goodrow and then Braun. Great way to get the momentum back after a bad coaching decision put them on their heels.
12:30: Stolarz is robbing people left and right. Great saves on high quality chances from Meier and Pavelski in tight. The Sharks need to keep that pressure up, he’ll crack eventually. They all crack eventually. Except for, like, Ben Scrivens.
10:06: Did anyone else forget Milan Lucic was on this team / still alive? Not me, because I am a professional, of course, but did anyone else?
9:23: And now Lucic reminds us what he’s for. Sucker punches and bad penalties. It remains to be seen if Meier will be penalized for that hit on Andrej Sekera, but Lucic will almost definitely cancel it out. Aside from being kind of a butt, Lucic is a drag on his team, and an anchor on their cap. Oilers fans don’t deserve this.
And it’s official, Meier and Lucic both in the box. Maybe not the rightest of calls, but the Oilers lose an opportunity for a power play thanks to Lucic. Again. 4-on-4 hockey for two minutes.
7:37: Poor Toby Rieder just can’t get a break. Dell puts up a great stop on the kid as the 4-on-4 winds down. Back to regular old hockey, friends.
5:26: Great chance comes about from Michael Haley doing a Joe Thornton doing a Wayne Gretzky impression impression. Stolarz comes up big with a stop on the Melker Karlsson shot.
3:00: The Goose is here, great chance by Nyquist receiving a slick pass from Hertl on the half wall. If he can get that shot away just a little quicker, he might start beating Stolarz’ lateral movement.
1:37: Dell might be a wizard, it’s the only way to stop McDavid. Dell comes out to challenge McDavid, leaving the short side open, but the Oilers captain commits to the pass, and can’t quite get it to Ty Rattie on the far side of the crease. Points to Marc-Edouard Vlasic for helping Dell settle the bouncing puck, as well.
1:12: Sharks score! Burns launches another blast off of a Hertl faceoff win. Burns shows great patience there, waiting for the layers of moving screens to move into place before shooting, and Nyquist gets some wood on it just above the hash marks. 3-2 Sharks lead.
END SECOND: Sharks 3, Oilers 2
Along with the score’s unchanging nature, the Sharks continued to play some strong hockey through the second period. Their penalty kill in particular could be the difference maker tonight, as they’ve held the Oilers to just three shots in four minutes of power play time, and only six shot attempts. The Sharks have skated to a 56.14 percent share of the shot attempts on the night, but they’ll have to avoid giving up an early goal in the third period like they did in the first two. Again, so far so good, but they’ll have to come out of the room with the same attitude they went into it with.
20:00: We’re underway, and we’ll soon know if the Sharks can keep the puck out of the net for long enough to buck this troublesome early goal trend.
18:54: Sharks penalty kill. Brenden Dillon is headed to the box for a hook on Sekera in front of the net. Not a great play for Dillon to miss Sekera coming in to the offensive zone, but taking a penalty is better than allowing a goal, which is easy to do when McDavid is standing behind the net.
17:57: The Sharks are doing a great job clogging up the neutral zone and holding Edmonton’s power play out of the zone. This is how they’ve been able to hold the Oilers to so few shots with the man advantage.
14:02: A bit of a prevent defense sneaking into the Sharks’ play this period and, while that may have helped them keep the puck out of their net for the first five minutes, they’ll need to be more aggressive to ensure a win tonight.
12:00: Man, how does anyone get odd-man breaks against Connor McDavid. I mean, does anyone get odd-man breaks against Connor McDavid? He’s a force of nature.
10:34: Darnell Nurse builds a Summer home on top of Meier after an awkward fall into the boards. It doesn’t look like a serious injury, but knees are fickle and frightening things and, with Meier heading straight for the room after the play, knock on whatever wood you have nearby with your fingers crossed.
9:43: Sharks power play. A goal on this one to open up a two goal lead would be so very nice, and let us all relax a little bit so that we can worry about Timo Meier. Colby Cave headed to the box for hooking Burns.
8:26: Draisaitl is hungry. The German has six shots on goal so far tonight, and is hunting for the hat trick and goal number 50 on the season.
6:40: Interesting how reluctant Draisaitl is to pass the puck to anyone other than McDavid in the offensive zone. Is it because he doesn’t trust anyone else to keep offensive zone pressure or because he knows McDavid will get it back to him for the shot?
5:39: Sharks failed to clear the puck from the defensive zone six times on that sequence (at least), the Oilers can smell the blood in the water and, without Meier, the Sharks will have to clean up their game and communicate better to hold on.
4:47: Kane gets stopped by Stolarz with maybe their best chance of the period off of an excellent Pavelski pass. A couple more of those and we’re in the money.
2:10: Gotta love Pavelski taking the body on Zack Kassian coming into the corner in the defensive zone. As much of a turd as Kassian is, he’s still a dangerous player.
1:16: Stolarz out of the Edmonton net for the extra attacker, can they play with two Draisaitls?
:08.2: Two really close chances by McDavid, stymied by Vlasic and Dell just to keep us entertained.
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 3, Oilers 2
With their spot in the Pacific Division now set in stone, the San Jose Sharks (44-27-9. 2nd Pacific) visit the Edmonton Oilers (34-37-9, 7th Pacific) tonight in a battle with just about nothing on the line. The Sharks are locked into facing the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round, albeit with home ice, and have a lot to clean up before they get there.
A win tonight would be the Sharks’ second in their last 11 contests, a stretch of futility that is unmatched in recent history, but there are still stars shining in the darkest of nights. Erik Karlsson participated in full practice this morning, lending some credence to his promises to return for the postseason. He’ll miss tonight, his 17th, but could see a few reps during the Sharks’ season ending home game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
While the Sharks have not had anything close to acceptable results, there have been strong performances up and down the roster. Joe Pavelski shone in his return in Vancouver on Tuesday, scoring
the game winning goal a goal in a robust 16:45 on ice. Logan Couture has a goal and five points in his last four games, and Tomas Hertl has three goals and seven points in his last five. Rookie Jacob Middleton acquitted himself well on the top pair with Brent Burns, and Joe Thornton’s two assists tied him with Steve Yzerman on the all-time list with 1063. An apple tonight and the big man will pass the legend for sole possession of eighth place.
Still, where the Sharks stars have shone at times during this recent stretch, they’ll need more contribution from the bottom six if they’re to pose any threat to the surging Knights. Head coach Peter DeBoer’s depth forwards have been in flux, and tonight Joonas Donskoi will sit for the return of Melker Karlsson.
If the Sharks have depth issues, the Oilers have a gaping chasm. Edmonton is second-last in the Pacific (sending daily thank you cards to the Los Angeles Kings) and will miss the playoffs again, for the 12th time in 13 seasons, despite having two 100-point players on their roster. The fact that a team with this kind of top-end talent can’t even make the postseason in a division as vulnerable as this year’s Pacific is a fatal indictment on a management staff and ownership group that still has their hands tragically fixed on the wheel.
The Oilers have lost four straight games coming into tonight (0-3-1), again, despite the plasma-hot performances of their two starts over the recent span. Leon Draisaitl has 15 goals and 37 points in his last 25 games, and sits second in the NHL with 47 goals on the season. Connor McDavid has ten goals and 33 points in his last 20 games. As usual, if the Sharks can contain McDavid and Draisaitl, they can contain the Oilers and, hopefully, get some semblance of rhythm before the playoffs officially start.
Expected scratches: Joonas Donskoi, Lukas Radil
Injured reserve: Erik Karlsson (groin), Radim Simek (knee)
Oilers (via NHL.com):
Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Zack Kassian
Milan Lucic — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Ty Rattie
Tobias Rieder — Colby Cave — Alex Chiasson
Joseph Gambardella — Sam Gagner — Josh Currie
Oscar Klefbom — Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse — Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera — Matt Benning
Expected scratches: Kevin Gravel, Alexander Petrovic, Brad Malone, Kyle Brodziak
Injured reserve: Jesse Puljujarvi (lower body), Jujhar Khaira (foot)
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 6 p.m. Pacific / 7 p.m. Central at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Watch on NBC Sports California in San Jose, or on Sportsnet West in scenic Alberta. Cord-cutters, rejoice, as the NHL is feeling generous tonight and designating 11 of the evening’s 12 contests as free streams on NHL.tv, including this one. Radio for the imaginative among you on 98.5 KFOX or through the Sharks app.