When the San Jose Sharks began the 2018-19 season, they were the Stanley Cup favorites, eight months later, they still are the favorites. In September of 2018 they added one of the best defensemen in the NHL and what is thought to be the final piece of the puzzle with six time All-Star Erik Karlsson. The Sharks gave up quite a bit to add the the two-time Norris trophy winner in trading four prospects and three draft picks to the Ottawa Senators. This year Karlsson has been hurt quite a bit, missing a bulk of games, and has refused to talk about a contract extension, but is manning the blue line with authority during the playoffs and proving why they made this huge trade. He has 11 assists so far and has looked very comfortable at the helm of the power play.
The Sharks have gone through a lot of controversy in the 12 playoff games they have played in and yet find themselves one win away from the Western Conference Finals, leading the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a best of seven series. The biggest loss to the Sharks coming at the 10 minute mark of period 3 in Game 7 when the Sharks were down 3-0. Cody Eakin cross-checked Joe Pavelski, knocking him out, which resulted in a five minute major penalty. The penalty also resulted in four unanswered goals by the Sharks giving them the lead 4-3 in just four minutes of the major penalty. The Golden Knights came back to tie the game, but the Sharks prevailed in OT, winning 5-4 and the series 4-3. The Knights fan base and even players disagreed with the five minute major call, and the major penalty may have been a bit excessive, but last time I “checked”…the refs do not score goals. With the loss of their captain for the next round versus the Colorado Avalanche the Sharks would certainly be put to the test, and the Avalanche have done just that.
The second round series started with the Sharks taking Game 1 and losing Game 2 both at the Shark Tank. The series has gone back and forth each team winning the next game played. As the series came to pivotal Game 5 the Sharks, playing at home, looked to put the Avs on the brink of elimination. This game came with its own form of controversy, on a beautiful goal by Kevin Lebanc, a Timo Meier high stick to the face of Timmo Rantanen, caused the refs reverse the goal, and handed the Sharks a 2 minute penalty for high sticking. Just before the goal, the stick of Meier was lifted into Rantanen’s face, by Avalanche D-man Tyson Barrie, none the less, the goal was overturned, and just to point out the ref who made the call was standing outside the zone on the center ice face-off circle, mind boggling, but you must have control of your own stick, the NHL rules read.
The Sharks would prevail and win Game 5 with a tight game with a score of 2-1 and go up in the series 3-2. The series moves to Denver, Colorado for Game 6 where the Sharks can advance to the Western Conference Finals with a win tonight. Before the season started the Sharks were predicted to win it all by 7 of 18 panelists on NHL.com’s website, and many more throughout the hockey world. The biggest question is not, was that a 5 minute major penalty, and will Joe Pavelski be back for the Sharks? Or should Kevin Lebanc’s goal have counted, was that high stick call warranted? No…it is, since the Sharks DID go all in on Erik Karlsson, will that massive gamble of a trade pay off with their first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history? We shall see….
Jon Margolis (@jmargo23)
photo credit: mercurynews.com