Last season, the Sharks came one game short of returning to the Stanley Cup Final, falling to the eventual champion Blues in seven games. In the offseason, they were able to re-sign defenseman Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton but watched captain Joe Pavelski head south to Dallas to sign with the Stars.
Despite losing Pavelski’s offense, the Sharks are still viewed by many as a Cup contender with a few caveats. One being the availability of Karlsson who played just 53 games last year and the second being the goaltending of Martin Jones. In Wednesday’s opening night 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, Sharks fans got a glimpse into what life could be like if Karlsson misses any extended period and Jones continues his inconsistent play.
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Now, Karlsson’s absence was not injury-related however, without him on the ice, the Sharks managed just 22 shots on net and went an abysmal 0-for-5 on the power play. On the other side of the ice, Vegas looked to be every bit the contender most viewed them as coming into the year. They jumped on Jones early with two quick goals to take an early lead on the Sharks who were also without Evander Kane. To his credit, Jones played well in the latter half of the game but the Sharks, in general, were thoroughly outplayed.
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Injuries to Karlsson and inconsistent play from Jones plagued the Sharks last season as well, however, last year, they were a far better team in a less competitive Western Conference. This is not to say they can’t compete but their margin for error is far slimmer in 2019-20. And, even though it is just the first game of the year, the issues you hoped wouldn’t appear as a Sharks fan have already done just that.
It doesn’t get much easier in the early going for the Sharks as they have a quick turnaround and they host the Golden Knights at home in their second game of the year. Followed by a three-game road trip against the Ducks, Predators, and Blackhawks before returning home against the Calgary Flames.