The San Jose Sharks finished off this series in extraordinary fashion with an astonishing comeback and OT win in Game 7 versus the Golden Knights.
This Game 7 featured a bit of everything. Overtime hockey, highlight reel goals, poor starts, questionable officiating, disheartening injuries, bad blood between two rival clubs, and yes a remarkable comeback by the San Jose Sharks.
Deciphering what is truly important and what might be of concern for Team Teal in this Game 7 is a tough task with all of the excitement surrounding Tuesday nights events. But there were a few things that stood out after sifting through the wreckage of this controversial thriller at the SAP Center.
The Youth is the Truth ~ 7 of the San Jose Sharks 14 points compiled tonight got scored by skaters who are 25 years old or younger. Kevin Labanc lead the youth movement and the Sharks comeback with a goal and 3 assists. He was clicking all night and it showed when it mattered most. He led all members of Team Teal in the primary statistical categories, however their were other players who stood out on the ice and on the scoresheet.
Timo Meier was dominate in Game 7. His physicality, speed, and skill with the puck were on display in all 3 zones. He led all San Jose Sharks with 10 shots on goal and 5 hits. His ability to separate opponents from the puck to create turnovers is one of the many reasons why he gets tasked with a bulk of defensive liabilities at forward.
His 1 assist tonight doesn’t give the 22-year-old enough credit when it comes to his role in the 4 goal comeback effort. His size and speed caused tons of headaches in the offensive zone with all the extra ice available. Meier could be found parked in front of Fleury for every goal in that third frame. Those screens affected the netminders vision and it cost him big time with 4 goals in little over 4 minutes versus their biggest rivals.
Last but certainly not least is Tomas Hertl. The 25-year-old Czech forward has continued to elevate his game into stardom, while simultaneously solidifying his spot as the Team Teal’s number 1 center. He recorded 2 points, with a goal and assist. His play was pivotal in the 4 goal rally that pushed the game into OT. Hertl remains the go to player on offense if the Sharks need a crucial goal. His size and puck handling prowess are hard to contain, which allows him to streak through sticks and defensive formations with ease.
The young guns of the San Jose Sharks will be relied on heavily again against a speedy top-heavy Avalanche squad. Hopefully their youth comes in handy considering Team Teal only has two days to rest while Colorado will have a full week of practice time ahead of the start of Round 2.
What are the Odds?! ~ A fun and insightful follow around this time of year is MoneyPuck.com’s social media feed. They provide in-game probabilities of the potential outcomes of each Stanley Cup Playoff game. Before Joe Pavelski went down in that scary fall that sent him to the locker room with visible blood coming out of his head. The San Jose Sharks weren’t really expected to win Game 7.
Even though these probabilities aren’t definitive they are a fun way to measure how impossible of a task Team Teal had to overcome to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7. The Sharks core stepped up for their captain and made sure he’d see the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They continue to live and die by the next man up mentality, which is something that odds-makers can’t quantify. Nevertheless these models are important for perspective and confirmation bias to what might be happening on the ice.
Two Norris Trophy Winners ~ These last few games are really what all of us envisioned going into this season. The San Jose Sharks relying heavily on their two all-world blueliners to play big minutes and produce at timely moments. It’s a match-up nightmare facing down either Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, or both on the ice at the same time. With the lineups shrinking during the playoffs this is a reality that opposing teams have to cope with.
Brent Burns nearly clocked 40 minutes for the second straight game, but settled on 39:37 TOI. His newfound defensive role along side Marc-Edouard Vlasic has put him in uncomfortable situations against the opposing teams best players. However he’s been effective with Pickles as his partner. They have only witnessed one Goal Against while on the ice together during that first round series.
Erik Karlsson on the other hand has shown off his skills in the neutral and offensive zone. He’s able to fire slick 100 foot passes through the neutral zone that lead to automatic zone entries for the Sharks. Not only that but he has a knack for putting the puck into dangerous areas, whether it be by pass or a shot. This skill was on display in Game 7 and throughout the series. He ended the night with 33:46 TOI and tallied two more assists. That brings his total to 9 in the playoffs so far, which gives him the points lead for the Sharks.
The two Norris Trophy winners looked gassed at the end of Game 7, but you know if called upon they’d keep playing those key minutes for Team Teal. Let’s hope they get the necessary rest so they are in game shape for the start of the second round.
Concerns Surrounding the Captain ~ Joe Pavelski took a nasty spill after being uplifted by Cody Eakin and Paul Stastny. He was motionless as soon as he hit the ice and needed help from the training staff to get up and into the locker room. The play resulted in the refs charging Eakin with the major penalty. This sequence of events sparked the Sharks ferocious 4 goal rally to push it to overtime.
The mans face has taken tons of punishment over the last 7 games. But last nights injury looked very concerning and everyone is eager to hear some news about the health of the Sharks Captain. His calming presence will be crucial versus an Avs squad looking to pounce on a potentially burnt out Sharks squad.
They Can’t Be This Lucky ~ The San Jose Sharks were down by 3 goals entering the final 10 minutes of Game 7 versus the Golden Knights and rallied to win in OT. They needed a historic short-handed double overtime goal in Game 6 to keep them alive. Team Teal absolutely can not keep expecting to win games like this.
The San Jose Sharks continuously found themselves trailing early in too many of these games in round 1. If the Sharks want to perpetuate their success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs they need buckle down defensively and maybe play with a lead for a change. This team is talented enough to dictate play and score at will. They just need to bring that mentality to the first five minutes of every contest.
Getting a fast start will be pivotal against a high-octane Avalanche squad. The San Jose Sharks were fortunate to get out round 1 alive, but now probably feel as though they have faced the worst of it being the only team in their division remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is on Friday so at least everyone gets a few days to decompress after a wild Game 7 at the Tank.