The San Jose Sharks have already earned a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and sit in second place in the Pacific Division but can they do more to help themselves during this final stretch?
Team Teal trails the first place Calgary Flames by six points while holding a five point edge over the Vegas Golden Knights who sit in third place. With this positioning, it might be time for the San Jose Sharks to take the remainder of the season to rest and focus on getting healthy.
There comes a time every season when the games remaining start winding down and the playoffs start to approach when coaches and management ask themselves: is it time to lock-in and push for a division title and better playoff positioning or is it time to rest and get healthy in hopes of a deep playoff run?
Team Teal has some difficult decisions to make based on the current standings and judging by how things are shaking out the smart choice seems to be rest up and get healthy for the playoffs.
The San Jose Sharks have shown this season how dominant they are when at full strength and the value that every player on the roster brings to the lineup. They have also shown that they can beat any team that they might face in the playoffs in the Western Conference, both at home and on the road when healthy.
The Sharks have been hit with various injuries all season long, some more severe than others, but recently they have started to pile up.
One of the more severe and long-term injuries that the Sharks have had to face is the groin injury to star defenseman Erik Karlsson. The two-time Norris Trophy winner has been sidelined for 22 games so far this season with this lingering groin injury. Before the injury occurred, Karlsson was having a strong season posting 45 points (3 goals and 42 assists) in 52 games played.
The start of Karlsson’s groin complications came on January 19th when he got scratched from the lineup against the Lightning and kept him sidelined for 8 games.
He returned to the San Jose Sharks lineup in Vancouver on February 16th . After his return, he played only four games before he re-tweaked it on Febraury 23rd. After a one game hiatus he tried to return on February 26th in Boston but never really looked 100 percent and possibly further injured himself during the contest. Since then EK65 hasn’t been in the lineup and its become a cause for concern and the talk of Sharks territory.
Karlsson has been skating recently but as of yesterday he has reportedly been shut down from skating daily as part of his rehab, but was able to test himself before practice on Wednesday. The team feels confident that he will be ready to go by the start of the playoffs.
Head Coach Peter DeBoer in the past week has reiterated the team’s mindset of being extra cautious to get fully healthy and ready for the playoffs and that they are looking at the big picture.
The worst and most detrimental injury that the Sharks have faced this season came on March 12 in Winnipeg when Radim Simek’s right leg got caught under a falling Andrew Copp resulting in a season ending MCL and ACL surgery. Simek’s presence since the injury has been greatly missed with Joakim Ryan attempting to filling his spot.
The most recent injury that the Sharks have been hit with is a lower-body injury to captain Joe Pavelski. The Sharks leading goal-scorer this season suffered the injury in the game against Nashville on March 16th after awkwardly falling into the boards after being hit by Filip Forsberg and has been out of the lineup for the past four games.
Before Pavelski got injured he was on a tear posting 63 points (37 goals and 26 assists) in 72 games played. Since his injury, the Sharks have gone 0-3-1 without him on the ice with three of those games being against teams out of playoff contention.
Pavelski has been skating the past couple of days and reportedly will be ready to go for the playoffs and possibly even for tomorrow night when the Sharks take on the Blackhawks.
Along with injuries, in the past couple of weeks the Sharks dressing room has also been dealing with illness. Logan Couture was the most recent victim who missed the game in Los Angeles last Thursday night due to the flu. Some other Sharks players earlier this month, specifically Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski, also had the flu but ended up playing through the symptoms.
All of these obstacles that the Sharks have been battling as the regular season comes to an end makes it crucial to focus on rest and getting healthy for the start of the playoffs. Calgary is almost a lock at this point to win the Pacific division and with the Sharks sitting 5 points ahead of Vegas, it’s time to focus on the big picture.
When the San Jose Sharks are fully healthy they have shown that they can beat any team in the NHL and are a clear top contender to hoist the cup this season. With only a handful of games remaining Team Teal hopes to get primed and ready for a deep playoff push.