Its that time of year again! The San Jose Sharks finally drop the puck after a long offseason. The hype train as left Diridon Station, and its now time to put up or shut up for team teal.
After a long turbulent offseason the San Jose Sharks are finally about to play some meaningful hockey games. Management has made some drastic changes to this roster and tonight we finally get to see what this team can do against a real NHL lineup. Training camp and preseason seemed to have generated more questions than answers.
Most of the hype surrounding the 2018 – 2019 campaign is focused on newly acquired all world defenseman Erik Karlsson, but there are other storylines as well. Joe Thornton’s return after another scary surgery is something that one should keep tabs on.
Along with the bottom six forward configurations being adjusted as a result of the EK65 deal. There are plenty of story lines swirling around this club and that makes covering this team that much more exhilarating.
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The San Jose Sharks are kicking off their regular season tonight against the Anaheim Ducks at the SAP Center. The Ducks are coming off a playoff sweep at the hands of the Sharks, and have many question marks surrounding their future as an organization.
Don’t be surprised if Anaheim comes out swinging with their tenacious style of play and young deceptive scorers. They will be looking to catch the Sharks off guard on their homecoming party for EK65.
The Athletic’s Bay Area beat writer Kevin Kurz provided us with the starting forward lines for tonight’s game. Note that Sharks prospect Rourke Chartier didn’t get penciled in even after making final cuts yesterday after the last day of camp.
The puck drops at 7:30 PT, so while you meticulously count down every second until that time how about you read a quick preview about what might be in store for tonight’s game.
Will Meaningful Hockey Solve the Sharks Power Play Woes?
The Sharks found out a way to score on the power play during their final preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights. In the first frame Erik Karlsson was able to net a goal off a cross ice pass from Kevin Labanc. While in the 3rd period Labanc himself scored on MAF shortside with a puck that rebounded off the boards from a Vlasic shot.
The roster regulars were successful at producing points for both teams. The San Jose Sharks gave up an astounding 3 shorthanded goals to Vegas’ penalty killers. Those are backbreakers for any team and the Sharks can ill afford to give up many of those during the regular season.
Brent Burns looked very lost while he was on the ice when the San Jose Sharks were on the man advantage. Most of those breakaways that scored short handed for Vegas came from bad defensive positioning by the former Norris Trophy winner. But one shouldn’t be all that concerned about this teams preseason performances.
Plugging in a player like Karlsson is a boost to all the players surrounding him. However it takes time for teams to adjust, especially one like the Sharks who have essentially had the same power play formula since coach Peter DeBoer took over 4 seasons ago.
They seemed to be testing out Burns on the right side boards, which is a foreign position for the defender who has spent much of his career launching pucks from the point. With more opportunities on the power play look for this team to be able to elevate their style of play on special teams.
For much of the offseason San Jose Sharks management and fans alike assumed that Evander Kane would mesh perfectly with the combination of the Joes on the first line. But after a sputtering start Pete DeBoer pulled the trigger and switched Kane out with budding power forward Timo Meier. It seemed to pay off immediately the two newly combined lines started creating consistent offensive pressure and dangerous scoring opportunities.
Meier’s tenacity and methodical style of play intertwines well with Jumbo and Pavs. He is great at digging pucks out of corners and uses his frame to shield off defenders in order to get to open ice where Jumbo or Pavs can hit him for a one timer.
Kane’s results with the Joe’s was disappointing but his straight line skate speed and nose for the puck slotted in perfect besides the two Finnish Forwards Joonas Donskoi and new arrival Antti Suomela. Putting Kane down the lineup also balances the forward groups a little more evenly and allows Peter DeBoer to use all four forward lines in order to create lopsided matchups on the ice.
If the Sharks run into trouble early against the Ducks it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that DeBoer will shake things up to help spawn points. The 2nd and 4th lines could also be mixed around if this team continues the way they were playing during their expedition games.
The Debut of EK65
The long awaited premiere of Erik Karlsson in a teal sweater. He was only featured in 2 preseason games, but got more and more comfortable with this team after every shift.
The Vlasic/Karlsson pairing was deployed in all situations during that team. Peter DeBoer has designated the two as his shutdown pair they were iced for a lot of the shifts against opposing the team’s top lines.
DeBoer obviously believes in EK65’s abilities in the defensive zone, and it is an interesting approach utilizing your best offensive defenseman in that manner. But Karlsson is one of the best skaters and transition players in the league; he has the ability to trek the puck through the neutral zone by himself, and also has the vision/passing ability to connect with skaters on a breakaway.
The possibilities with EK65 on this team seem limitless. That’s the impact an all-world player has on a team. The EK65 era officially kicks off tonight in San Jose with much of the hockey world watching.
If you haven’t had a chance to see much of Karlsson play hockey, this season is going to a new experience for you. Karlsson adds another dimension to any teams game, so putting him with a loaded line up like the Sharks puts the rest of the league on notice.
Expect the start of tonight’s game to be a little sloppy with this Sharks team still trying to formulate their team chemistry. The Ducks also have a pretty large chip on their shoulder considering they were swept out the playoffs last year at the hands of this team.
The San Jose Sharks are notoriously slow starters so don’t panic if the Ducks come out with an early lead. Eventually though the Sharks will force their will on an inferior Ducks club.
The Final: 4 – 2 Sharks
The goal scorers: Labanc, Thornton, Ryan, and Kane
The Stat: 3 assists from EK65 in his debut.